Hospitals illegally refusing to provide itemized bills

Hospitals are required by law to send an itemized bill on request within 30 days. When Mike Masnick received an $8,455 bill for getting a minor cut stitched in the emergency room, though, Dignity Health/CommonSpirit refused to do so. Masnick reports that it repeatedly ignored verbal requests after promising to fulfill them, sent inappropriate forms with no instructions on how to file them, gave him fake addresses to send it to when he asked, and refused to speak on the record when it learned he was a journalist. Getting an Itemized Hospital Bill Is Basically Impossible, he reports for The Daily Beast.

The next week, I finally spoke to someone, who didn't seem at all concerned that their form didn't have an address to send it to, and said she'd need to look up where to send it, as if I were the first person to actually want to return such a document.

Eventually, she said to send it to: "72997, San Francisco, CA 94160."

Yes, 72997. I pointed out that this was not an actual address. There was no street name.

More than 60 percent of hospital companies refuse to itemize bills. Worse, they can just make it up anyway—what you really want is insurance paperwork they can't fake. You're always on square one of a new phase of a legal battle more expensive than just paying the bill. Masnick finally got his real bill through an insurance company API accessed in person by someone at a billing startup that he interviewed, and learned that his ER trip was falsely and inaccurately labeled as a level 4 emergency rather than what it was, a level 2 visit to treat a minor laceration. This form of fraud is called upcoding.