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Tips for avoiding unexpected medical bills

A recent Consumer Report revealed that one in three privately insured Americans have been surprised by a medical bill over the past two years.

These medical bill surprises can range anywhere from $25 to $10,000 or more.

This typically happens when you go to a hospital or medical clinic that is "in network," but the physician is not.

People think they are covered because that specific medical practice is in their area of coverage, but that is not always the case.

“It's not always easy for patients to avoid these bills. Despite your best efforts to stay in-network, sometimes you are going to get an out-of-network provider and be slapped with a fee that you didn't really expect and can't really control,” said Chuck Bell with Consumers Union.                  

You could get slapped with a medical bill especially if you make a visit to the Emergency Room, or see a radiologist or an anesthesiologist.

Many times these physicians do not not work for the hospital, but rather work for themselves or in large practice groups so they are able to sign their own deals with insurance companies.

The best way to avoid being hit with an unexpected medical bill is to be proactive and always check and see if the hospital or physician you are seeing is in your network of insurance coverage.

"What we are trying to do is hook consumers up with resources that can help them, and so we created an online complaint tool so consumers can easily find their state insurance departments; and also a nonprofit consumer assistance program if their state has one," Bell added.

The survey included more than 2,000 adult U.S. residents and was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. For more information on the complaint tool, click here.

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