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 Vol 10|No4|April |2014

Questioning the Bill

by Jamie McKenzie (about author)

The bill can be quite wrong. Sometimes it is the bill for a neighboring table. Other times, the bill is suddenly inflated with charges that you were not told about in advance. While most bills will be quite reliable, it is smart to get into the habit of checking all bills before paying them.

In this article we will give special attention to very large bills like those sent by hospitals and Internet service providers, but vigilance makes great sense even when dealing with restaurants and coffee shops.


Pet friendly?

Planning a visit to Russia with two cats, I took advantage of's excellent filters to find hotels that were "pet friendly." I soon learned that some hotels were friendly only to small dogs. But finally I found one that was comfortable with cats that offered a good price when paid in advance. It mentioned an "extra fee" for pets but did not state how much that would be in advance. When the bill arrived online, I was shocked to learn that they wanted almost as much for the cats as the people. It was going to cost $120 for the cats for two nights.

Thank you for choosing Roses Apartments.
In your reservation you mentioned that you will be coming to stay with two cats. The price to accommodate the cats is 1000 rubles ($28) per night for each cat.


This was far more than I wanted to pay and the lack of advanced warning was startling. When I told them I wished to cancel without penalty, they refused to return my prepayment of $210.

This was a time to question a bill, but the hotel was totally uncooperative after 4-5 email requests. So I turned to for relief, pointing out that the hotel was certainly not pet friendly and was engaging in an unfair business practice. I had always found to provide excellent customer service in the past, and in this case, while it took two months to get the hotel to issue a full refund, persistence paid off. The hotel finally agreed to reimburse the $210.

New to Medicare?

Not long ago when I called to arrange my annual physical exam that had always been covered by insurance, I assumed this would still be the case under my new medicare coverage.

After my appointment, I was shocked to receive a bill of more than $300 and a notice from the billing office that Medicare had refused to pay the bill. When I did some research I found out that Medicare would cover a "welcome to Medicare" first medical exam but that my medical company did not submit the bill with the right code for such a visit. They used the code for a normal exam. Even though the doctor will do most of the same things, the Medicare folks really like codes. The hospital should know that and should have used the right code in the first place, but the billing office took the position that I had made a mistake, as if the patient is supposed to know all these codes.

It took two formal written appeals to get the hospital to submit the bill with the correct code so that Medicare did actually pay the bill, now reduced to $230.

Their response to the first appeal was a simple, "We did the code correctly." No real explanation. No signature.

It took quite a detailed letter to win the second appeal as well as contact with top management at the hospital complaining about the treatment I was receiving from the billing department.

Even though it took me many hours, questioning the bill saved me $360.

Overseas Phone Charges

Telephone bills can be astronomical if you suddenly hop on a plane and visit another country without adjusting your plan. Behaviors back home that are not too costly may rack up fees of $800 or more. But the good news is that many providers like AT&T will provide retroactive adjustments if you call them and ask what they can do to help you with your huge bill. If you do not question the bill, it will remain high.

The list could go on and on, but the main point of this article is the necessity of checking over the many bills that come our way to make sure they are both accurate and fair. In those cases where something seems out of whack, it pays to question the bill and request satisfaction.


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