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Have you ever gotten something that looks like a medical bill in the mail, and just thrown it away because it says "this is not a bill"?

Not so fast.

Your EOB - or explanation of benefits - is the tool you need to double check your medical bills and make sure you aren't being overcharged.

So when you get an actual medical bill that says "You owe $80," here's what you should do.

  • Ask the provider (doctor, hospital, physical therapist, etc.) to send an itemized bill. It tells you:
    • What services were provided
    • What the charges were
    • What the insurance company paid or didn't pay
    • What you're responsible for.
  • The next step: Compare the bill with the EOB. If you didn't receive this in the mail, you can go on your online health insurance portal to find it, or call the health insurance company. It tells you:
    • What the charges were
    • What the contracted rate was for the insurance company
    • What you're responsible for.

READ: Sample Explanation of Benefits

If the two documents tell you that you owe two different amounts, you've got a problem. You're being overcharged. You need to call your doctor and tell them, "I've got an EOB that says I owe $80, and you're trying to charge me $100. Has there been a mistake?"

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Another red flag to watch for: If you get a bill from a hospital and it says "charges were $100," but you don't get any message from your insurance that says you owe $100, there's something wrong with that bill.

Every insurance company has contracts, where they offer discounts for the service. You can protect yourself by comparing those numbers from the bill and the EOB, and making sure that your insurance company's discounts have been applied.

Hospitals make mistakes, and insurance companies make mistakes. So you may be the only one checking to make sure you're being charged correctly.

Jonathon Hess is the CEO of Athos Health, which helps people avoid unnecessary health care costs. Jon has two decades of experience in the health care industry.

If you have a question about your health care costs, or a topic you'd like us to cover in Health Care Hacks, email us at healthcarehacks@kare11.com.

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