For various reasons medical costs have been much higher for our family this year. My wife and I felt like we had a good estimate for our Flexible Spending Account (FSA) savings account but that account was used up by about the middle of the year. Ouch!
Healthcare costs are sometimes difficult to estimate and we have to continue to do the best we can in planning for them. I think the key is to set money aside consistently because most of us will encounter co-pays, prescriptions and unplanned expenses from time to time.
One of these unexpected expenses was my recent trip to the emergency room for an allergic reaction to some medicine. Fortunately, everything was okay, but I’m still seeing a few bills trickle in from this incident. A few weeks ago I received a bill from the hospital for approximately $250. The statement showed that my insurance company had made a payment, but I was left with the remaining amount of $250.
I could have paid this bill but something told me I should call my insurance company and understand why I was being charged. $250 is a lot of money! So, I put in a call to my insurance company and it turned out I didn’t have to pay a penny! The insurance company paid the contracted rate, but the hospital billed me for the remaining balance. Fortunately my insurance company agreed to cover the balance since I had already met my responsibility.
This particular situation worked out great for us! I love not having to spend $250 on medical expenses! What are a few lessons that can be learned here?
1. Stay on top of medical bills.
It’s important to be organized and stay on top of medical bills. I made sure it was on my to-do list to follow up and to do so in a timely manner. Because of these precautions, I didn’t let the bill go past the due date.
When medical incidents occur, it’s easy to let these bills get hidden under a stack of papers or even lost. After an incident, know the bills will be coming and be ready to organize them in your file by due date. You’ll have peace of mind knowing they’re all located in one place and you can easily manage them and pay them on time.
Make sure you also take time to view your claims online. In my case, I was able to log onto my insurance company’s website and find the claim number. Having all the information in front of me made it easier to discuss when I called the insurance company.
2. Invest the time to understand your medical bills.
I think it’s easy to get a bit lazy on such bills and just pay them, especially when the balance isn’t very high. It’s also easy to assume the bill processing is correct between the medical provider and insurance company.
The truth is that people work in billing departments and like us, they sometimes make mistakes. It’s also important to keep in mind that software programs that handle billing aren’t always correct either.
In my situation there may have not been many people involved. I’m sure a lot of this was driven by software programs on both sides of the fence. The hospital’s billing system may have automatically flagged me as owing more money. I can’t say for sure, but no one else may have ever caught this but me!
3. Take responsibility!
Overall, it’s important to realize that no one is going to take care of these billing situations with more care than you. It’s our job to manage our finances and stay on top of bills even when they may not be correct!
Remember to work with doctor’s offices and insurance companies with kindness and respect. Remember there are people on the other end of the phone just like you and in general most people will help when they are treated with kindness and respect.
It’s sometimes not a bad idea to get both insurance and medical providers on the phone at the same time. Your responsibility is to manage the situation and get people talking if there is an issue.
In a past situation, I arranged a 3 way call with the medial provider and insurance company. I remained quiet as both parties worked it out.
Medical bills can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when there is also medical stress and concern. Just remember to stay organized, invest some time to understand why you’re being billed, and take responsibility to get the problem resolved if there is an issue. Patience goes a long way in these situations too!
What has been your experience with medical billing mistakes and what tips do you have to resolve them?