Mom Shares How She Got Her Hospital Bills Lowered By $3,000 With A Simple Trick She Learned From A Debt Collector

​After months of drama, all it took was one single sentence to make the charges disappear.

woman trying to get her hospital bills lowered Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

In America, hospital bills strike terror into the hearts of most of us — and often ruin people's lives and futures. So it seems ridiculous to think that the process of creating medical bills is so absurdly arbitrary that a single sentence could make large chunks of them disappear.

However, that's precisely what one mom recently learned.

This mom got her hospital bills lowered by $3,000 using a trick she learned from a debt collector.

Medical debt is a uniquely American problem — and it's disrupting more lives than ever. Health policy research organization KFF estimates that as many as 100 million Americans carry medical debt, and an investigation by NPR showed that not only is the problem worsening, but it is the result of systematic efforts by our for-profit healthcare industry.


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Given how terrifying this is, TikToker Annie Muscato's recent experience is downright counterintuitive. Asking one simple question made a giant chunk of her bill disappear.


After giving birth, the mom received medical bills that were inaccurate by thousands of dollars.

First things first, the only reason Muscato even noticed the discrepancy is because she did a thing all too many of us refrain from doing: She opened her bills and checked every item for accuracy.



Particularly if you have anxiety or financial trauma, you are likely to take an avoidant approach to bills — especially big scary ones like medical bills — and simply pay them immediately or toss them in the trash without actually reading them. But in Muscato's case, reading through her bill revealed a huge discrepancy.

"Even with insurance, it was several thousand dollars, but this seems like several thousand too many dollars," she said. 


So she did the first thing experts recommend for medical bills — she asked for a detailed, itemized bill, which revealed a major error.

What she found was pretty much what she expected — absurd charges like "$40 for a Tylenol." But the bill also contained a nearly $3,000 charge for something Muscato never even received: an epidural.

"I assume this is going to be an easy fix," she said, "so I call billing, and I'm like, hey, there's a charge on here for an epidural. I did not have an epidural, so can we get that removed? Turns out it was not an easy fix."

Moscato said she "did ten rounds" of phone calls and conversations, but the hospital was "insistent" that she had an epidural. "I clearly was not going to pay for it, because I did not, in fact, receive an epidural!" Moscato quipped. 

Instead, she paid the difference while continuing to haggle with the hospital over the epidural charges. Before anything was resolved, the hospital sent the unpaid charges to debt collectors.  


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The debt collector handling her account instructed her to ask for her complete medical records — and it worked. 

"I freaked out a little bit," Moscato says of the moment a debt collector called demanding immediate payment for the epidural. But when she explained the discrepancy, the debt collector shared a piece of inside information that made all the difference. 

"She told me, 'Call them and tell them that you want to request your full medical record because now you are concerned about what else has been erroneously recorded,'" Muscato said.

She couldn't believe how quickly that fixed the problem — it took a matter of hours after requesting her full medical records for the error to be fixed. "I have now used that multiple times, and it works every single time," she said. 


Experts say you should never pay a medical bill without doing thorough research first, because they're almost always negotiable.

Moscato's experience is in line with anecdotal advice that has been floating around for ages. Many say that simply asking for an itemized bill often gets a medical bill reduced or sometimes erased entirely. I have personally experienced this to be effective, albeit for a medical bill that was tiny by most standards. 



But if you don't get that lucky, experts suggest taking your itemized bill and looking for duplicate charges, making sure the charges match up to Medicare billing codes you can look up online, checking for discrepancies in what your insurance was supposed to cover, and ensuring your condition was not misdiagnosed on the bill, a practice known as "upcoding."

The bottom line? Medical bills are almost always negotiable, and you should never pay one until you've done your due diligence with itemized bills and, if necessary, medical records.


Follow these steps and demand more specifics, and you just might find yourself in Moscato's shoes, where as she put it, "Suddenly the charges go away." 

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.