I recently had my knee replaced.  The surgery went very well and I was walking in a week.

But then I received bills for my hospitalization and was shocked to find two charges for anesthesia:  one for an anesthesiologist and one for a nurse anesthetist. I called up the billing company and asked for an explanation.  Certainly, both bills were superfluous.

Apparently, this is a common practice. I was told that since both had written a note on the chart, both could bill me.  Anesthesiologists can supervise four operating rooms at a time while the nurse anesthesiologists are in the actual operating room. Hence, the double billing. The same is true for dermatologists.  They can use nurse extenders at several offices to do biopsies.  The patients receive a bill from the dermatologist and the nurse extender.

I really believe that that is a scam that should be strongly protested by patients.  However, I am afraid that most of us do not read bills carefully and would have overlooked this.  There are numerous errors in medical bills and the burden lies with the patient to uncover them. Over the past few years, I have reviewed my medical bills and have found many errors.  When I contested these charges, they were removed. I wrote previously about my being charged for observation (which carries a hefty co-pay) rather than a short hospitalization even though I had stayed overnight.

I recently read "An American Sickness" by Elisabeth Rosenthal. The book exposes many of the dirty little secrets in our health care system and ways for the consumer to be aware.  I highly recommend that everyone read this book. It is eye opening and scary. She talks about scams with insurance, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and testing and ancillary services.  She tells us about the practice of coding medical visits to increase the payment to the doctor or hospital.  She also complains about patient complacency. We need to become educated consumers, read our hospital bills, understand our insurance coverage, and argue if we find an error.

An educated and engaged public can help decrease the rising costs of healthcare.