Episode 59 ~ Guest Post

An Emergency Bill Can Get Pretty Hefty, These Tips Can Save You Serious Money on Your Medical Bills
By Michelle Katz

When Suzanne came to me after receiving her $8, 000 bill for 30 minutes in the ER almost 1 year later, she could not recall some of the events that occurred in the ER or know why her insurance was not kicking in.  Who would?  On the other hand, what she could recall, was helpful enough to get that bill down to about $1, 500 and this is what we did:

1.  Get an itemized copy of your bill from the hospital:  This is key to helping you recall events and navigate through that horrifying day.  Suzanne called the billing department and made that request via the phone and email… She also told them to put her bill on hold while she was investigating the charges… This ultimately “stops the clock” on any collections, and gets the hospital involved.  By doing this, you are letting them know, you are serious.
2.  Get a copy of your medical chart:  This is legally yours and it will not only help you recall some of the finer details of the event, but it also might help uncover some of the mysterious charges on your bill.   When Suzanne and I compared this with the itemized bill we uncovered the following: wrong dates, wrong times, wrong amounts, double charges, unnecessary tests and even a wrong diagnosis.
3.  Call up the insurance company to double check the information:  In this process, we discovered that one of the main reasons her insurance company did NOT kick in was somewhere in between filing the claim and capturing it, her birthdate was transcribed wrong…
4.  Don’t wait for the billing department to call you:  As soon as you get all of the above information and highlight what seems like an obvious mistake to you and write down your questions, pick up that phone AND contact the billing department in writing and make that appointment to go over your bill…  Any delay on your part may throw your bill back onto the track to collections…
5.  What you don’t understand, be sure to ask:  Remember that many of the people in the billing department do not have a medical background, so they might refer you to the doctor.  Ask them for help if you do not know the doctor…
6.  Document: After the mistakes are found get a reprint of the bill.  Be sure your insurance company has a correct copy and if the balance is correct, pay for it immediately and be sure to get the zero balance in writing and keep this is your file for at LEAST a year…
7.  Negotiate:  If you have a high deductible like Suzanne, there may be a balance even after insurance kicks in that is a tough amount to swallow.  Take the time to sit down with this billing person to talk about your situation and ask for a discount.  If that amount is too high, work out a payment plan that works for YOU and get your final agreement in writing.  You might be surprised what you can work out if you just ask.  Sometimes hospitals will accept a low cash amount to settle out your bill since setting up a payment plan can be time consuming and cost more for the hospital depending on the situation.
8.  Say thank you:  I cannot emphasize this enough.  It is rare the billing department gets a thank you.  So one up your game!  A simple thank you may get you an ally in the billing department that may “have your back” if something goes amiss in the future.
In the end we were able to get Suzanne bill down to about $1, 500 and work out a payment plan that is comfortable to her that she can afford to keep up with her other bills without going into cardiac arrest at the end of every month…

Twitter: @michellekatzmsn
Facebook: www.facebook.com/nursemichellekatz/
Website: about.me/michellekatz

Michelle Katz, MSN, LPN is perhaps the most well-known healthcare advocate today. For over 15 years, Michelle has used the Healthcare for Less platform to make healthcare accessible to those who may not have thought they could afford the care they needed, as well as understandable to the general public, by addressing some of the most critical aspects of healthcare in a simpler way. Michelle has used the power of the media to help deliver the message of hope and encourage others to become their own healthcare advocates through compelling stories about real people in a wide range of financial situations effecting their health from a physical to their emotional state. She empowers families and businesses to take control of their situations by introducing the tools they need to get out of medical debt and stay out of medical debt; all steming from her own experiences with near death experiences and singlehandedly avoiding medical debt with and without health insurance. Michelle is well know for her work, helping families across the country get out of medical debt, on the “Real Money” segments of ABC World News Tonight in addition to the “Doc on a Dime” segment on The Doctors Show. She has also been quoted and used as an expert by various media outlets including CBS, FoxNews, NBC, CNN and MSNBC where she simplifies the US healthcare system while bringing facts to the listeners without political bias. In addition to being the lead resource for many media outlets on health and navigating through the healthcare system, Michelle has published three books on saving money in healthcare: Healthcare Made Easy, Healthcare for Less and 101 Health Insurance Tips. These books are all one of a kind resources, helping businesses and families navigate through the healthcare system and avoid medical debt in a way that is understandable to all.

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