Need Help Understanding Your Medical Bill?
Here are some resources for figuring out what your doctor or hospital is charging you for.
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If you avoid looking at your medical bills or insurance statements because you find them incomprehensible, don’t despair. Here are some helpful websites that will help you make sense of medical terms and terminology commonly found in medical statements.
Procedure and Diagnosis Codes
CPT® Procedure Code Search (https://ocm.ama-assn.org)
CPT® codes, or current procedural terminology codes, are numerical codes used to report medical procedures and services provided to a patient. For example, the CPT® code for an MRI of the brain without contrast is 70551. You may search for the description of the CPT® code billed by your provider by going to the American Medical Association’s (AMA's) website and using the drop-down menu to find your geographic region and then inserting the five digit CPT® code found on your bill or statement. CPT ® is a registered trademark of the AMA; the codes are copyright protected by the AMA and are updated every year.
ICD Diagnosis Code Search (http://www.icd9data.com/2012/Volume1/default.htm)
ICD-9-CM codes (which stands for International Classification of Diseases, 9th Edition, Clinical Modification) are three to five digit codes assigned by your medical provider to describe diagnoses. ICD9data.com is a free website for searching the diagnosis codes by section. For example, the 2012 ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes for section 800-999 would be used to report “Injury and Poisoning.” Within that section, Code 912 is assigned to “Superficial injury of the shoulder and upper arm.” More specifically, Code 912.5 is used to report “Insect bite nonvenomous of shoulder and upper arm infected.”
You may also search for the description of the ICD-9-CM code used by your provider by going to a diagnostic coding website such as MediLexicon (http://www.medilexicon.com/icd9codes.php) and inserting the code in the search box.
Starting October 1, 2013, the 10th edition of the codes will be in effect and will be known as ICD-10-CM. CMS.gov has more information at: http://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coding/ICD10/.
Medical Conditions and Terms
U.S. National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov)
This website is run by the world’s largest biomedical library, located on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. You can click on use a medical dictionary on the home page to search for a particular term. There is also an excellent consumer friendly Understanding Medical Words tutorial that teaches you about medical words, including how medical words are put together.
Medscape Family Medicine (www.medscape.com)
This WebMD website is free after registration. Click on Reference on the home page to look up information on drugs, diseases, and conditions.
MedTerms™ Dictionary (www.medterms.com)
This free website is a good starting point to look up medical dictionary definitions of popular medical terms. Insert a medical term in the search box on MedicineNet.com’s medical dictionary page and you will get the definition as well as related medical articles.
Glossary for Medicare Users (www.medicare.gov/Glossary)
If you are a Medicare beneficiary or enrollee, this is the place to find the explanation of words and terms used in the Medicare program. You have the option of typing your word in the search box or using the alphabetical keys if you are unsure of the spelling.
Patients who are looking for information on dental conditions and terminology can go to two consumer education websites.
The Academy of General Dentistry’s (AGD) consumer information and education site iswww.knowyourteeth.com. The home page has a “Quick Reference” alphabetical link, or you can use the “Glossary – Oral Health Defined” for accessing additional information on dental conditions and terminology.