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How to Avoid Unexpected Doctor Bills

Posted at 2:06 PM, Dec 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-16 14:10:25-05

Most health insurance plans cover annual physical exams and basic screenings free of charge. But one woman discovered that some do not!

Consumer reporter John Matarese shows how to avoid an unexpected doctor's bill, so you don't waste your money.

When you hear something is free you expect it to be free not to cost 300 dollars.

But you need to hear what happened to one woman when she went for a free mammogram then learned that free depends on what kind of insurance you have.

When breast cancer survivors gather for their annual walks you'll often find this woman, Charlene Rack. As a survivor, she knows the importance of mammograms. So she jumped at the chance for a free checkup.

Charlene Rack billed for free checkup "A lot of times in October, because it is breast cancer awareness month, you'll see those things around, free mammograms." Charlene doesn't have health insurance. Instead, she belongs to a Christian Health Share Ministry, a fast growing, cheaper alternative to Obamacare. But these groups have downsides, such as little coverage for checkups.

"Instead of traditional insurance, preventative testing like this is not covered." The screening's website, however, said "free." “You know I figured we were ok, because of the advertising, of free and no strings attached, no mall print, nothing." But two weeks later... uh oh! "I received a bill in the mail for almost $300."

It turns out Christian Health Share Programs are considered "self-pay" to many hospitals. That's why Charlene got a bill for the full cost.

Were you surprised when you received that? “It was very frustrating obviously, when it was big non-profit organization that is promoting free screenings with no fine print, I thought I was safe."

Christian Health Share Programs can save you thousands of dollars a year over traditional insurance and can be a good option. But know the possible downsides before you sign up, so you don't waste your money.