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Health Care Reporter Advises Due Diligence Before Paying Medical Bills

AP Photo/Don Petersen, File
In this Dec. 20, 2011 file photo, medical bills and other records are spread out on the kitchen table of a patient in Salem, Va.

For those who have recently received a medical bill, a ProPublica health care reporter has some advice: don’t pay it immediately.

“Make sure that it is fair, and make sure that it’s accurate,” said Marshall Allen during Tuesday’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.

According to Allen, Americans often overpay for health care if they send in a check too quickly.  “Make sure they send you an itemized medical bill, especially hospitals, they’re very accustomed to sending you a lump sum payment,” adding, “That’s not something we would tolerate from a grocery store or a mechanic or a fast food restaurant.”

Allen also recommends asking for billing codes and looking at the price of services online.

Billing codes are accessible from the billing department of a hospital, doctor’s office or insurance plan. They’re a list of services provided, with each service having a specific code tied to it.

As of 2021, hospitals are now required to publish online the cost of 300 common medical services as negotiated with different insurance providers for consumers to access.

Starting in 2023, insurance companies will also be required to publicly list the rates they’ve negotiated with providers, as well as the projected out-of-pocket expenses patients will be expected to pay for each service.

Allen is speaking out to promote his new book Never Pay The First Bill: And Other Ways to Fight the Health Care System and Win.

The full interview with him is available on Tuesday’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, which encores at 8 p.m. on WJCT News 89.9.

Raymon Troncoso can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RayTroncoso.

Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity. You can reach him at (904) 358-6319 or and follow him on Twitter @RayTroncoso.