Charged for crying? Navigating unexpected medical charges

Going to the doctor is a necessity but the battle over an incorrect medical bill can quickly become a nuisance.

"You get someone who pokes their head in the room and you're charged and they're not even the primary doctor," said one woman. 

Unexplained medical charges happen more often than you'd think, according to patient advocates. One recent tweet about a questionable bill is going viral after a user on Twitter says her sister was charged $40 for crying.

Advocate Nicole Christensen, president of Care Answered, helps people navigate through the healthcare system. She said every person has rights as a patient and that it is important to ask questions, such as "Do you think my insurance will cover this?" and "Can I call my insurance?"

"There are also tests that sometimes doctors say you need," Christensen said. "Ask them why."

Within hours of that tweet, thousands of replies poured in from people with similar experiences. One user said her daughter was charged for "skin-to-skin contact" or holding the baby after he was born.

Just this year, a federal ban was passed on surprise medical bills. Now when it comes to hospital visits, even if you receive care from an out-of-network provider at an emergency facility, you can no longer be billed at a rate above what an in-network provider would, including any cost-sharing your plan requires.

Christensen said patient portals are also a good way to keep track of what took place during a doctor's visit. There should always be an explanation for any added services. They should see they had an assessment and what the outcome was

Come July, Americans will have one year to pay their medical debt before it appears on credit reports. Hopefully, by then the bill is fixed, advocates say.