Medical Cost Confusion

posted by Ellen Perlman All politics may be local, but often it's personal too. If someday West Virginians can understand their medical bills, it could ...
by | February 27, 2007

posted by Ellen Perlman

Healthcosts_2 All politics may be local, but often it's personal too.

If someday West Virginians can understand their medical bills, it could be because Gov. Joe Manchin had knee surgery in July. The governor wanted a single invoice telling him what he owed, according to the Associated Press. He couldn't get it. That made him mad. "When they tell me that's impossible, that's a bunch of bullcrap." Currently, for major procedures, the medical bills can run to several feet worth of paper.

But the governor didn't stop at trying to streamline bills. His experience led to an interesting proposal. He wants to be able to reward Medicaid recipients who examine their medical bills and find instances of overcharging or fraud. Medicaid is the largest expenditure in the state budget. The state could save millions of dollars a year if patients lent a hand. But Medicaid patients won't bother if there's no reason to look at their bills for questionable charges. "Nobody checks anything," Manchin said.

Medicaid doesn't allow giving incentives to patients for helping to stop overcharges or fraud. Manchin is lobbying federal officials to change that. He says it's all about getting people to take responsibility for their health care costs. Once they can figure out exactly how much they are, that is.

Ellen Perlman
Ellen Perlman  |  Former columnist
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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