STILLWATER, Okla. – Everyone suffers through occasional trips to the doctor’s office. While there is no escaping the charges that come with these visits, paying some extra attention to your personal health and the billing process will help you better manage costs.

“In addition to people living longer, household budgets remain tight in the slowly recovering economy, while health care expenses keep going up,” said Eileen St. Pierre, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension personal finance specialist. “It can be a tough situation.”

While you might not have control over the cost of certain procedures, following a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can add years to your life, and reduce your risk of contracting serious chronic conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancers.

“Poor health is expensive,” St. Pierre said. “Preventive care is always the best medicine, and will save you money in the long run.”

Of course, no matter how many vegetables you eat or miles you log on the treadmill, accidents and illnesses happen. It is important to fully understand your health insurance coverage, including applicable co-pays and the use of in- and out-of-network doctors. You also need to pinpoint just how much you are paying out-of-pocket. Any questions should be directed to your insurance company, St. Pierre said.

In preparing to pay medical bills, study them closely before writing the check or whipping out the credit card. According to Medical Billing Advocates of America, eight out of 10 medical bills contain errors.

“Request an itemized bill that shows the exact charges,” said St. Pierre, who noted one of the most common errors is bundled items that also are billed separately.  

For instance, shampoo, soap, toilet paper, trays and toothbrushes also could be listed as room and board.

Look for upcharges or more expensive services than were actually performed, and compare the bill to the explanation of benefits (EOB) provided by the insurance company.

If you find an error on the bill, call the medical facility, or if you have a question about the EOB, contact the insurance company.

“You have the option of asking your doctor if she ordered a service that appears on your bill,” St. Pierre. “Keep in mind you can’t be charged for something your doctor didn’t order in writing.”

Consider your payment options only after you are satisfied all the charges are accurate. If it is a sizable medical expense you will have a hard time paying in one lump sum, ask if there is a payment plan.

“Or, if you can pay the entire amount at one time, ask the hospital or medical facility if there’s a discount for doing so,” St. Pierre said.

There are many resources available for help paying and understanding medical bills. In Oklahoma, older adults and their caregivers can contact the statewide toll-free Senior Info-line at 800-211-2116. Inquiries are automatically routed to a specialist at one of 11 Area Agencies on Aging or sponsoring agencies located nearest to callers.

For help with paying for prescription drugs, residents can contact RX for Oklahoma at

Other helpful resources include the Medical Billing Advocates of America ( and the Patient Advocate Foundation (                 


Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.

Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
140 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: [email protected]

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