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How to Save on Emergency Room Bills

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Suzanna and Phillip, a couple from Los Angeles, have carried a heavy burden for a year now. Suzanna spent several hours in the emergency room in the summer of 2012 after troubling symptoms that she would later find out were related to cervical cancer. At the time, she was suffering pain and bleeding.

While the ER staff did not diagnose Suzanna’s condition at the time, the hospital did send her an $8,000 bill for tests and medication.

“I cried. I was like ‘This cannot be right,’” Suzanna said.

“You get the bill and there’s just all these different numbers on them and you have no idea where they came from or how they’re calculated,” Phillip said.

After making small monthly payments, the couple recently started to wonder if they should dispute their bill.

To help Suzanna and Phillip figure out the bill and why the overnight hospital visit had cost so much, ABC News brought in health care expert Michelle Katz to go over the bill line by line.

She instantly found a slew of problems and errors.

Below, you’ll find the pointers Katz shared with Suzanna and Phillip so you too can hopefully avoid receiving a medical bill with incorrect charges.

1. Before an emergency strikes, have a medical bag handy. This bag should contain your doctor records, allergies and current medications. The medical bag will help you avoid paying for what you do not need.

Suzanna was charged $298.23 for a pregnancy test that normally costs about $10 in a drug store.

She was also charged close to $800 for two tests that had been given by her doctor the previous day.  The tests were $75 at her doctor’s office.

Another charge was for medication Suzanna already had at home.  The price on the hospital bill was 90 times higher than the price she’d paid for the same drug.

2. While you are at the hospital, document everything. Your list should contain every treatment you receive and any medications given.  Be sure not to leave without an itemized bill, so you can compare it to your log and check for errors.

ABC News discovered the hospital had billed Suzanna twice for a test she’d only had once. She was also charged for a test she said she did not have at all.

3. Negotiate your bill. Request to go over your bill with someone at the hospital. You can ask about your options.  It can become a back and forth negotiation process.

In Suzanna and Phillip’s case, using these tips turned a nearly $8,000 bill into a $1,151.14 bill.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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