NASHVILLE (WSMV) - When it comes to your health, it's important to get the best care possible. However, sometimes navigating where to go, who to see, and how much you should pay can be confusing and complicated.
That's why Consumer Investigator Lindsay Bramson is Working 4 You to tell you what you can do to ensure that the hospital bill you're getting is accurate.
In the last 3 years, Beverly Patnaik has been to the hospital four times.
"It's been kind of a whirlwind in terms of different parts of my body being infected health-wise," Patnaik said.
She sees more than a dozen doctors for various health conditions, and navigating her way through bills became difficult.
Until one day she got a phone call.
"I'll be your patient advocate said the woman. And I said ok, what does that mean," she said.
If you haven't heard of healthcare advocates, it's because it's a relatively new profession.
Many of them used to work for healthcare providers and have crossed over to the other side, now advocating for the patients.
"I know how to play the game from A-Z," Martine Brousse, a healthcare specialist and patient advocate with AdvimedPro, said.
For more than two decades, she was a billing manager for several healthcare providers. Now, she works with patients to get medical bills reduced and fix mistakes that are made.
Bramson asked, "How often would you say billing mistakes are happening right now?"
"A lot. That's mostly what is happening. Actually, what I'm seeing is a lot of little mistakes, but those little mistakes add up to thousands and tens of thousands of dollars for patients," Brousse said.
One of the biggest issues? Paying a bill before the insurance company gets to it often leads to overpayment.
Bramson asked, "How big of an issue is this?"
"It's huge. It's because people don't realize how many things aren't paid correctly. And even if they do realize, they have no clue how to address it," Brousse explained.
Healthcare advocates do all the work for you, so you don't have to.
"I never knew I needed one, but I'm very happy to have her. She's there for me, and that makes all the difference in the world," Patnaik said.
So how can you find one of these patient advocates?
Some hospitals in the area told News4 they offer this service for free for patients, so start there. St. Thomas is one of those hospitals.
There are also specific organizations that will help you find the right person specializing in your problem or need. Still, that person may come with a fee.
According to Consumers' Checkbook, an advocacy group out of Washington, D.C., some of the organizations you can reach out to help identify the right person are:
- The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates
- National Association of Healthcare Advocacy
- Aging Life Care Association
- Patient Advocate Certification Board
You can also contact the Council on Aging for help. They have a helpline for older adults and caregivers needing information on community services and resources like emergency financial assistance. That number is (615) 353-4235. They also have a Directory of Services for Middle TN. They are happy to mail to older adults and family caregivers during COVID.