'They're charging whatever they think they can get away with' - FOX 13 News

'They're charging whatever they think they can get away with'

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

As patients face rising health care costs, Pasco County resident Ed Frankovitch found a way to significantly reduce some of his bills. He is battling cancer, and says he is currently swamped in around $250,000 in medical debt.

"The treatments I'm going through are depressing enough, let alone the money aspects of it," Frankovitch said.

He was particularly concerned about the cost on an injection of medicine he received each month to counter the adverse effects of chemotherapy. Copies of his bills show at one clinic, that one injection cost more than $7,000. On another bill, it cost $9,000.

Then he went to a hospital, where the price shot up to nearly $19,000.

"That's just incredible, just outrageous," said Florida Consumer Action Network Executive Director Bill Newton. "There's just no basis for this pricing. They're charging whatever they think they can get away with."

Health care providers set their own prices, and patients don't usually even see the prices -- until they get the bills.

"By law, in most states, providers can charge whatever they wish for services," said USF Health Professor Dr. Jay Wolfson. "You've seen the gross variation in charges for the exact same service in our own community."

Ed Frankovitch is on Medicaid. So our government (i.e. taxpayers) can negotiate rates and pick up most of the tab for most of his bills. But for that one injection, Frankovitch personally owed around $750 per shot.

Then, he later discovered he could get the same injection from a pharmacy, where his costs dropped to $6.

Frankovitch hopes his experience will drive others to find similar ways to cut their bills. Just as insurance companies negotiate rates, patients can negotiate with providers over the bills they owe. Some billing advocates can help them spot charges that can be disputed and removed, or reduced.

While FOX 13 does not recommend or endorse any particular organization, Medical Billing Advocates of America (billadvocates.com) and ACAP --The Alliance of Claim Assistance Professionals (claims.org) -- are networks of billing advocates that offer billing advocacy services.

The more patients learn about their prices and options, the more they can save.

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