Detecting Medical Billing Errors Can Help You Reduce Debt
Need Help Detecting Medical Billing Errors?
We often tell our readers that reviewing their medical bills for errors is essential, that it can help them get payments from their insurance company and save money on medical bills. To learn more about how to reduce medical debt, read below.
Companies That Can Help You Review Your Medical Bills
It seems that this task has opened the doors for some entrepreneurs to start a business dedicated to helping people review their medical bills. CoPatient provides free audits of medical bills, searching for billing errors and overcharges. Their aim is to reduce costs and determine if any of the charges can be appealed.
While there are other companies who offer similar services, CoPatient uses a “crowd sourcing” approach to differentiate their business. They take the information they’ve learned from claims and then apply that knowledge to the next set of claims that come their way. They’ve developed an intuitive way to learn from medical bills and help those down the line.
The company’s founders both worked in the healthcare field previously and understand how truly confusing medical bills can be, especially when there are several treatments, diagnoses and dates of service. Add to that the fact that there may be more than one insurance company involved and you’ve got a mess of paperwork and codes that are difficult to navigate through.
While CoPatient offers free audits it does have paid tier levels for people who need additional support. While the services they offer are incredible and very helpful for people struggling with medical debt, their greatest contribution is most likely their ability to inspire patients to get involved in their medical bills and pay attention to their charges.
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Fix Mistakes on Medical Bills
Do you know that even a small error in the spelling of your name, your address or a couple inverted numbers can affect how, or if, your insurance company pays your medical bills. We can’t stress strongly enough how important it is to check each of your medical bills to make sure that they are accurate, from the spelling of your name through to the charges and diagnoses.
The first things you should review when you get a medical bill are the things that are obvious to you, your personal information, the doctor(s) you saw, and the dates of care. When it gets to the more difficult aspects of your bill like your diagnosis, the diagnostic codes, the procedures and procedural codes and the like, you will probably have to contact your medical healthcare provider to see if they can help you decipher the charges to make sure that they’re accurate.
The double checking doesn’t stop there, you need to go over your insurance company’s explanation of benefits form with an equally fine toothed comb. Checking up on your insurance company is your responsibility, so you may have to call them to get a better understanding of their denials and cross check their reasons against your insurance policy to make sure your claims are being handled correctly. The mistakes made in regard to medical bills do not just occur on the part of your healthcare provider, insurance companies make just as many mistakes and it’s your job to make sure they’re paying appropriately.
A bankruptcy attorney can help you learn how to reduce medical debt by making sure you don’t make costly mistakes on your bills.
Medical Errors and Medication Mix-ups Affect Medical Debt
Hospitals are incorporated into modern day society to help people feel better. However, after some alarming studies done on hospitals, uncovered were some pretty horrific events. There are a lot of people that are looking into becoming their own health advocates.
In recent years, various errors performed in treatment have caused the amount of medical debt to rise throughout the United States. Problems ranging from a patient receiving the wrong body parts to medication mix-ups are happening frequently, and taxpayers are being forced to pay for the ignorance of these professionals.
Studies show that roughly 1.5 million patients are given the wrong medications for their conditions. Not only does this hurt the patient that was mistreated, but it also takes funds that should not be taken out of the budgets that most hospitals are given. When the money that a hospital has been given to operate has diminished, the hospital will borrow more money from outside sources to keep their facility running.
The money that the hospitals borrow will only add to the amount of medical debt that the United States presently has to deal with. Changes are being made to try to rectify the amount of errors that hospitals and other medical clinics are allowing to slip by.
There are more than 3000 hospitals that have signed a new campaign that was presented by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. This new campaign mandates that hospital staff perform multiple checks on medications before they are given to patients.Even though the system has shown improvement, it is too soon to know if the improvements are going to make any changes to the debts that these institutions have incurred over the time that they did not have the system in play. In order to prevent harm to themselves, patients are advised to always have a friend, patient advocate, or family member by their side if they are going through a surgical procedure or being administered any type of medication.
Common Mistakes on Medical Bills
We often suggest that our readers take the time to review all of their medical bills in detail to see if there are any errors. Medical billing errors are quite often a reason for insurance companies to deny payment. It’s one of those denials that can successfully be fought and won. This can mean the difference between small payments you were due and thousands and thousands of dollars.
How to Reduce Medical Debt by Checking for Mistakes on Your Bills
So what are the main areas you need to check on when reviewing your medical bills and insurance submissions?
It seems like the most obvious place to start, so definitely start there. Check your personal information to make sure your name, address, insurance ID numbers and other personal information is correct. This is a quick mistake to fix and if your name is wrong an insurance claim will be sent back right away.
When you check the services performed section of your medical bill you may have to ask for help from your healthcare provider’s office to see what the codes and charges mean. Make sure that these service line up with what you actually had done and that there aren’t any additional charges or duplications. This may not mean a lot to the insurance company but if you’re being overcharged you sure need to know.
The diagnosis you’re assigned for your illnesses are also another are where you’ll probably need to get clarification from your healthcare provider’s office. Having the right and/or wrong diagnosis can affect your insurance payouts and it’s important that all of your medical records are accurate for future reference.
More and more medical offices are turning to electronic health records or EHR to handle billing, this means it’s even more important than ever to double check each bill you get as this will stay on your record and mistakes may cause serious problems later on.
Learn More About How to Reduce Medical Debt
If you are struggling under medical bills, a bankruptcy attorney can help. Learn more about how to reduce medical debt by contacting our office today.
Some Medical Debt the Result of “Balance” Billing
According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, even if you have medical insurance and go to an “in-network” hospital, you could still end up with a ton of medical debt due to a practice called “balance billing.” In a nutshell, balance billing equals more medical debt for consumers who use “in-network” hospitals who in turn employ “out-of-network” medical staff. The medical professional may not have a contract with your insurer so they charge any fee they choose, the insurer is not obligated to pay it; but you are.
The article said:
“When Thomas Harrington went to the emergency room for treatment of a smashed finger one Sunday morning in August 2007, he fully expected his insurance would cover his costs. The hospital, Denton Regional Medical Center, was included in his insurer’s network, after all. Unfortunately for Harrington, the emergency room doctor was not. As a result, the 48-year-old Denton man was billed for the balance not paid by his insurer.”
“The next thing I know, I checked my credit report and saw that the doctor submitted $350 to collections,” Harrington said. That debt lowered his credit score from 775 to 630, he said.”
That’s what balance billing does to ordinary consumers like you–more medical debt and more headaches. However, some legislators have got wind of this nasty little practice that is exasperating Americans medical debt problem and legislation was passed that gives consumers some power to fight it.. State representative Kelly Hancock, authored legislation that provides a mediation process for consumers to dispute medical debt that is due to balance billing practices. The law, which was passed in June, allows patients with medical debt exceeding $1,000 to have a mediator decide what they owe, provided the medical service was conducted by a physician in a hospital covered under the patient’s insurance.
This is a good start; but what we need is a law that out right bans the practice. Most consumers suffering under medical debt don’t have time to fight with powerful insurers in court. We need to understand and respect that reality.
Being Underinsured Is a Well Traveled Road to Medical Debt
We often mention on this blog that medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in America. But there is another problem not often talked about that causes millions of Americans to unwittingly rack up medical debt — inadequate health insurance. Millions of Americans are signed up for health insurance policies that offer inadequate coverage. When it comes to understanding how to reduce medical debt, being aware of your policy is the first step.
Just when they need the insurance benefits because of a catastrophic illness, they find that many of the procedures they require are not covered by their barebones health insurance policy. Of course the get the procedures anyway and end up in thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt.
Is your health insurance policy adequate?
Ask yourself the following questions and find out if your health insurance is likely to put you into medical debt not keep you out of it:
- Does your health insurance have low overall health coverage? Medical care is VERY expensive so if you have a policy that is only covering you for a few hundred thousand you could be setting yourself up for a medical debt catastrophe if you ever faced a serious illness.
- Does your health insurance policy omit care for important items such as prescription drugs or outpatient chemotherapy? If so, this is another pitfall in your health insurance that could cause you to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt.
- Does your health insurance policy fail to place a maximum on out-of-pocket expenses? Many barebones health insurance policies have no limit on how much you’re required to pay out of your pocket a year, which can send you into bankruptcy if you ever become seriously ill.
Yes, medical debt can be discharged in bankruptcy; but there are some things you can do now to avoid the medical debt trap. If you’re paying for a medical insurance policy make sure that you are properly covered. Visit Consumer Reports – Health Insurance Overview to find out more about how your health insurance policy may be setting you up for a medical debt trap.
Uninsured Children Can Add to Mounting Medical Debt
According to an article in the Dallas Morning news, Texas has some of the largest numbers of children living with no healthcare in the nation.
The article said:
“Texas has policies that make it difficult for many to get (public) insurance,” said Julia Easley, director of the advocacy program at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. She said 1.5 million Texas children are uninsured.
Families without health insurance are at risk. Children get sick and without health insurance, one child’s illness can quickly morph into interest accruing medical debt. There are public health insurance programs for children but the eligibility is limited and the application process is so complicated that many parents need to fill out the forms several times just to get it right. The problem is probably going to worsen because more families are facing job losses and can’t afford to make the COBRA payments that would allow them to keep their health insurance.
Faced with job losses, foreclosure and other debts, many parents are simply risking it by not carrying health insurance. Many are paying price in the end once they or their child is faced with an illness. After an illness uninsured families quickly learn how medical debt can become as big of a problem as credit card debt or foreclosure. Fortunately, there are laws that allow medical debt to be discharged in bankruptcy. If you have been saddled with medical bills and would like to learn how to reduce medical debt, please contact a Dallas-Fort Worth bankruptcy attorney today to find out how you can discharge medical debt in bankruptcy.
Medical Debt of a Victim
Unfortunately with medical bills they don’t solely rack up from falling ill or injuring yourself in an accident. There are some that face medical bills because they became a victim to a crime. When a crime occurs, such as a mugging, the ambulance is called and you are rushed to the emergency room (if necessary) leaving you with medical debt. There are some ways you can choose to handle these bills, however. For example, some people will sue the muggers for the amount owed and more. That is if the criminal was caught.
A great piece of advice would be to contact a crime assistance program which every state has. There are online resources that can help point you in the right direction. Some agencies will actually pay for your medical bills either in full or partially if the patient was a victim of a crime. This also includes ambulance costs. Another benefit to contacting these agencies is that they also offer support groups and counseling.
If you were stuck with the ambulance bill, another option is to speak to the ambulance company. They may be willing to negotiate your bills or offer financial assistance. Regardless of how you handle your medical bills that were obtained from a crime, you should without a doubt get help as soon as possible.
The numbers of individuals that are underinsured have increased to about 25 million over the last four years. Along with the 3 million that are not insured at all, if you become a victim to a crime, chances are likely you will face a large medical bill. Just as an illness or injury brought on by an accident, it is not fair that you need to not only be impacted psychology from being a victim, but on top of that, worry about the medical debt. That is why you should do a little digging and try to find assistance from programs that help victims with their medical debt.
Medical Credit Cards Could Endanger Your Finances
Why You Shouldn’t Get a Medical Credit Card
Medical credit cards are lines of credit designed to pay for medical expense such as surgery or medications. Many medical credit cards come with a low introductory rate of zero percent but after a few months can balloon to an interest rate as high as 30 percent. There is big business in medicine and in debt and it seems that the medical industry and the banks that fund them are joining forces to pile even more debt onto struggling Americans.
That’s not to say that your doctor is personally trying to put you in debt; but the medical credit cards offered to debtors are more beneficial to corporations than to the patient.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you should NEVER get a medical credit card:
Medical credit cards will immediately charge interest on your medical debt after the grace period has passed. Patients who don’t pay for services with a medical credit card avoid interest rates as long as they don’t go to collections.
Credit Report Damage
It doesn’t take long for you to miss a few payments on your medical credit card and end up with a ding on your credit report. A medical credit card is still a line of card and failure to pay on time will hurt your FICO score. If a debtor fails to pay medical debt not charged to credit card, it isn’t likely to be reported to the credit bureaus until after it goes to collections. At the slow rate at which hospital billing departments operate that could take months.
Medical debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy, plain and simple. However, medical debt charged to a credit card could offer some complications during bankruptcy. Some credit card issuers might argue that you never intended to pay the medical debt, especially if you charged medical procedures or medicine to your credit card after becoming insolvent.
You Cannot Be Denied Emergency Medical Treatment Because of Bankruptcy
We’ve discussed previously how medical debt is one of the biggest causes of bankruptcy in the country. Medical debt is such a huge problem that many Americans are afraid that if they file bankruptcy a hospital or doctor that was included in the bankruptcy may refuse to treat them in an emergency situation.
No hospital can refuse emergency treatment to any patient regardless of their income, credit or bankruptcy status. That is the law. Furthermore, hospitals are not checking your credit or bankruptcy status when you come through their emergency room so you have nothing to fear in that regard.
Many debtors considering bankruptcy are also afraid that if they include their personal physician in their bankruptcy case they won’t be able to return to receive their treatments especially in cases when the debtor has a chronic illness. This is highly unlikely. With the rising costs of medical care, filing bankruptcy because of medical debt has become more and more common. The medical community is not in the habit of denying treatment to patients even if they discharged a very large medical bill in bankruptcy.
When filing bankruptcy, debtors are required to list all debts, including medical debt. Filing bankruptcy on medical debt will not impact your ability to receive treatment in the future. Bankruptcy offers all debtors a fresh start, including debtors with medical debt.
Save Now for Retirement Medical Expenses
As if the current crisis of rising healthcare costs weren’t enough to stress most of us, the Employee Benefits Research Institute announced the results of a study regarding the savings that a person will need upon retirement to pay for expenses not covered by Medicare and Medicaid. The results are different for men and women, because of longevity issues. A man retiring at the age of 65 in 2009 will need anywhere from $68,000 to $173,000 in their savings to cover additional medical expenses. Because women live longer, they will need even higher savings at retirement. A woman retiring at age 65 in 2009 will need somewhere between $98,000 and $242,000 to cover their out-of-pocket medical expenses. The study is daunting, because many people are barely making their mortgage payments and covering their current bills with little left over to amass a significant savings for retirement.
How to Reduce Medical Debt by Reducing Your Daily Expenses
Even though this is not the best news for consumers, there are actions that you can take now to start planning for retirement. In an article by MarketWatch, they suggest the first step is recognizing that you will need a mass savings and start preparing, the earlier the better. The next step is to “reduce dramatically your standard of living, save aggressively, consider working longer, and try to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.” These are generally good suggestions. Cutting costs in your daily expenses and utilizing more saving strategies is always the best first step in debt management. Working longer and trying to stay healthy are also solid recommendations.
However, these recommendations don’t adequately factor in our current recession. Most of us would like to work longer, but with the unemployment rate climbing each month and more business closing, that option may not be available to everyone. Irving Based Kimberly Clark, Inc., the maker of Kleenex and Huggies, announced today that it would be cutting 1,600 jobs. Most of us try to eat healthy and not get sick, but some illnesses are only controllable, not preventable. Managing a disease like high blood pressure or diabetes is expensive even under the best of circumstances.
Because of the recession, consumer spending has decreased and more and more people are already reducing their standard of living. Hundreds of people are hitting web sites like couponmom.com and mommysavers.com looking for ways to reduce the basic costs of living. AAA has announced that Fourth of July travel is expected to drop because of the recession. The bottom line is that many people are already doing everything they can to make it through and are already living below their standard of living. Especially when you are in your thirties and forties, most people are not thinking about saving for medical costs during retirement, they are focused on making it through this year without financially crumbing.
How to Reduce Medical Debt by Preparing Early
Not dealing with serious debt issues right now does have long-term consequences. It impairs your ability to save and rebuild your financial stability. The number one message in the MarketWatch article is the sooner the better. If you are struggling with towering debt and foreclosure feels like it is just around the corner, getting good information sooner is better. It will assist you in making sounder financial choices so that you make it through your current financial crisis sooner, rather than later. No one likes the idea of bankruptcy…but it may be the best option to help you get through the financial crunch now… so that you can start focusing on saving for retirement expenses. A qualified bankruptcy attorney can help you work through the process to help you make the best longer-term and short-term decisions for your financial situation.
4 Ways to Prevent Medical Debt From Wrecking Your Retirement
Your Retirement and Medical Debt
Even for Americans who have held steady, well-paying jobs throughout their working years, medical debt can still wreck their retirement security. We discuss how to reduce medical debt and ensure that you protect your retirement.
Below are four things debtors can do to prevent medical debt from destroying their retirement:
- Purchase and keep comprehensive health insurance. This is often easier said than done; but good health insurance is the foundation of protecting yourself from the negative impact of medical debt. If you’re underinsured you can end up with massive amounts of medical debt if you have a major health problem. And unfortunately the chances of having a major health challenge increase with age.
- If you face mounting medical debt, don’t delay a necessary bankruptcy. The ugly truth about medical debt is that it is often insurmountable without the help of bankruptcy. Medical bills in the tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands are not designed to be paid by individuals. Unless you are amongst the world’s wealthiest individuals you won’t be able to put a serious dent in most medical debt. That’s why bankruptcy forgives medical debt and other unsecured debts.
- Don’t liquidate your retirement account to pay medical debt. This is one of the biggest mistakes that debtors make. The reality is that when you liquidate your retirement account to pay medical debt you are putting yourself deeper in the hole. You will pay a penalty fee and taxes on any retirement account you liquidate before the age of 65. Also, once you liquidate your retirement account and place that money in your bank account, you make it vulnerable to other creditors if they decide to sue you and win a bank levy against your account.
- When planning for your retirement, make sure you plan so that you have enough money to fill the gaps in your medical coverage. Remember, in you retirement years you will need to pay co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses as you take care of your medical needs.
For More Information About How to Reduce Medical Debt
If you have questions about how to reduce medical debt, speak to a Dallas bankruptcy attorney at Allmand Law Firm, PLLC today.