Know Your Insurance Options
Most of us are insured through employer-sponsored plans, but even those programs have nuances. There are different plans you can choose from, and it will require some research on your part to figure out what’s best for you. A good part of the debate goes between a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). The answer depends on your medical history and who you’re covering, but your employer can always help you choose what’s right for you (the internet is also pretty helpful).
After your plan’s been chosen, you’ll receive an explanation of benefits (or EOB) from your insurance provider whenever you have a medical appointment. This isn’t a medical bill, and will be labeled at the top with a line saying “THIS IS NOT A BILL.” It’s just a reminder of how much the services cost and what your insurance provider covered for you. Your insurance provider is legally required to send you an EOB.
Above anything else, know this about your insurance provider: They aren’t legally obligated to file your insurance for you. It’s up to the patient to make sure everything is filed correctly. Don’t think that your insurance company is paving the road for you.
Know Your Hospitals
We don’t always have the luxury of choosing which hospital we visit, especially during medical emergencies. If you do have the opportunity to shop around with different hospitals, it can help in the long run. Last year, news outlets reported a sad truth about the American health industry: Many hospitals mark up the charges for common procedures. The Washington Post was one of many publications to post about this, and they highlighted two hospitals in Florida (that are practically across the street from each other) and their pricing differences. One hospital charged nearly twice as much for a pacemaker implant surgery, which pushed the cost of the procedure to over $120,000. This is just the beginning of these price discrepancies – so if you have time to research your options, do it!
Know Your Payment Plans
American medical bills are typically huge, but they can be broken up to manageable increments like any other debt. What makes medical bills difficult is the disconnect between the hospital, your insurance company and how you remember the procedure. This is a bit of a generalization, but hospital billing can be incredibly confusing. While you might expect a tidy bill for your entire visit, it rarely works out that way. Oftentimes, individual charges are broken up across multiple bills. Meaning visits to the emergency room and a specialist for your injury in the same day could easily lead to two separate bills – even if they’re in the same building.
Fortune favors the bold in this case. Make sure to get in contact with your hospital’s billing office as soon as you’re healthy, and let them know your financial situation. Odds are good that they’ll work with you if you’re up front with them about your financial situation. Most medical bills are hard to pay in one installment, so work out a solid payment plan with them. Even if your budget is tight, a $20 – $25 monthly commitment to your bill will show good faith. What you don’t want to do is avoid the bill out of fear, and have it move to collections. Once that happens the hospital can’t take the bill back into their control, and collection agencies often report on your credit if they have the bill. Be proactive and honest with who you need to pay, and you’ll be much happier in the long run.
Hopefully this has been helpful if you have questions about your medical bills. If you have any further questions, please comment below and we’ll help you out as best we can.
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