ATLANTA — Channel 2 Consumer Adviser Clark Howard says medicine and medical procedures are often the only things we buy before we know what the cost will be.
Asking questions and doing research can protect you from unknown charges on your claims.
Steven Edwards says it's also important to look over every bill and claim you receive.
After a recent hospital stay, Edwards noticed two charges on his insurance claim for a smoking cessation consultation.
"Basically the only thing he asked me was if I smoked and I told him yes I did, and he asked me if I want to quit, and I said no I did not. He charged me $25 for asking a question and I didn't think that was right," Edwards said.
When he called his insurance company, they told him the charge was valid.
He called the Consumer Action Center and spoke to the manager, Lori Silverman, who says she fields calls about medical bills more than almost any other consumer issue.
Edwards' call hit home with her.
After her daughter's last wellness visit with the pediatrician, Silverman had noticed an extra charge on her bill.
WellCare visits are covered under her insurance so she called to dispute the charge.
She was told the charge was due to a conversation about shortness of breath and a referral to a specialist.
"It was explained to me that it was subjective. It's up to the provider to determine whether it's outside a well visit," Silverman said.
Pat Ketche, an associate professor of health administration at Georgia State University, says properly coding medical visits becomes difficult and the standard of care changes.
She recommends consumers visit ChoosingWisely.org to find out what is or isn't included in a visit to the doctor.
"Sometimes physicians, for example, might say, 'I think you need an EKG.' Well an EKG won't necessarily be covered as part of a wellness visit and so for patients to have a tool to say, 'Well, will I be charged for this? Is this part of my wellness?'" explained Ketche.
Eventually one of Steven's charges was removed from his bill.
Silverman encourages every consumer to ask questions and look over every bill carefully.
"As the consumer, you need to be vigilant about what you're going to be billed about what's included and what's not," Silverman said.