Health Care Costs – Patient Advocates Can Save You Thousands

You or a family member may have recently had some health care event, such as a hospitalization. Now, over the coming days, the medical bills will arrive at your home. Every medical provider who contributed to your treatment is going to send a bill, and you are the person who bears the financial obligation for payment. If you have health insurance, the insurer may pay a large percentage of your medical bills.

However, an alarmingly large and growing segment of the American population lives each day without health insurance. Insurance experts estimate that over 48 million Americans are living without health insurance. And that number of uninsured persons is expected to increase quickly as the economy worsens and unemployed workers lose their insurance coverage.

When those bills show up after a health care event, a serious financial crisis happens. That patient, or the patient’s family, has to figure out a way to pay those medical bills. Those bills can be in the thousands of dollars. For more serious illness and treatment, the bills can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you make mistakes while taking care of these medical bills, you could put yourself in a financial situation from which you could never recover.

Think for a moment how ridiculous the system is for providing medical services. You go to your medical provider for a visit. No one gives you a price list of services. You are not told how much ANYTHING costs while you’re being treated. Usually you find out the cost of your medical services when they present the bill to you.

Would you agree to buy groceries like that? Would you get your car repaired with that kind of billing arrangement? Of course not! You wouldn’t even bury your dead cat without knowing what it would cost!

But, in medical services, ignorance about billing is the accepted method among most consumers.

Sadly, many of the medical bills are incorrect…sometimes monstrously incorrect. Billing errors happen daily on all levels…Doctor to patient, doctor to coding staff or billing service, billing service to patient.

So, what can be done? How can a regular person…an average American faced with giant medical bills…determine the correct medical charges and get correct medical bills?

Retain a Patient Advocate.

Hardly anyone knows about Patient Advocates. You can be sure that the medical providers and insurance companies will NEVER tell you about them.

Why?

Think about it from an insurance company’s viewpoint. If the patient hires a Patient Advocate, and the Advocate does his job, the chances are good that the insurance company will pay more on the patient’s claim.

Think about it from the medical provider’s viewpoint. If the patient hires a Patient Advocate and the Advocate does his job, the chances are good that the medical provider is going to receive substantially less money for his services.

A Patient Advocate is a person or company that

o Will collect all your bills, claim forms and statements, even if they’re in a “shoebox”
o Analyzes the bills
o Submits appeals for incorrect charges
o Negotiates settlements with medical providers

The Patient Advocate can cut hundreds or thousands of dollars out of incorrect bills.

EVERYTHING in a medical bill is negotiable. Don’t be the sucker that pays the bills without making sure they are accurate. Medical providers negotiate their bills with insurance companies EVERY DAY. Why should you pay more?

NEGOTIATE!!

Medical Education Pathways – Part 3 – Your Future Begins Now

TIPS AND STRATEGIES

How can one find information about foreign medical schools? How does one apply to medical school in another country? Students can either do the research and homework on their own, or find a student advocate to assist them in the process.

For students who want to take matters into their own hands, the most important things to look for are universities that are recognized by the appropriate accrediting bodies in the student’s home country. For example, American students looking for international medical schools should refer to the FAIMER website and search the IMED directory from their website for eligible medical schools around the world. It is also important to talk to the admission office and the international student office to determine if they are capable of assisting in matters such as housing, residence permits and other day-to-day aspects of living in a foreign country. Don’t forget to ask for names and contact information for alumni and current students of the university. Perhaps the most important factor in determining the reliability of an international program is the length of time that it has been available. Programs that have been around for more than 10 years have enough experience with foreign students to understand their needs. Programs with less than 10 years are still ‘learning the ropes’ and the program administration is typically not as smooth or easy as compared to more experienced programs. I have experienced both types of programs from a student’s perspective and from an administrator’s perspective. Programs with less than 10 years of experience are very difficult for both students and administrators to handle.

Many international medical schools work with student advocates in other countries to assist students who are interested in their programs. Student advocates are typically official representatives of the medical schools they claim to work with, and charge a fee for their service. If there is no stated upfront fee, the advocate has an arrangement with the university to receive a part of the students’ tuition fee. There are pros and cons to each financial model. It is important to note that it is not ethical for advocates to receive money from universities on a per-student basis, as this constitutes a conflict of interest. In the United States, it is a completely unacceptable practice. As with any other part of life, be wary of anyone who claims to give you something for nothing.

Applicants can contact local student advocates, search the internet, contact the universities directly or even visit the universities in order to get a better idea of the program, curriculum, culture and life outside of the university. It is important to confirm that the advocate has a good relationship with the university. It is also very important to make sure the advocate has a good history in dealing with students and universities. The best way to verify this is to ask to speak with some of their current students, and visit their office to be sure they are a legitimate organization. It is important to have a good advocate, because the advocate provides an initial stability and ongoing sense of security. It has been shown that students with support systems in place have lower attrition rates and better grades than students without such a support system.

An experienced and conscientious advocate will almost always insist on meeting the students and maybe even the family for an interview. After all, it is the whole family that is affected when a student decides to study overseas. It is important to establish a good relationship between the advocate and the student. Without this connection, the student might hesitate to reach-out for assistance if they need help while at school. Advocates typically help students during the transition, and stay close to the students in the first few months of school. As time passes and the students adjust to their new setting, they typically contact advocates only for more serious issues or in case of emergencies. It is typical for students to adapt quickly to their new surroundings and this natural ‘maturation’ allows advocates to stay focused on newer students.

Services an advocate might provide:

-Application processing & visa/immigration facilitation
-Arrange interviews locally – this saves students and parents from having to fly to the university before knowing they are accepted
-Many student advocates set up housing, internet access, cell phones, bank accounts, health insurance, etc…
-Advocates typically have employees in or around the university to provide on-site assistance for their students
-More comprehensive programs offer USMLE and residency counseling, and the possibility of some clinical rotations in the US to students in the program.

Whatever the situation, nothing replaces thorough research on the part of the student.

There are many advantages to an international medical education. It is a great opportunity for students who may not otherwise have the chance. There are so many bright young people in this country who could be great doctors if given the opportunity.

Well, the opportunity is here. Your future begins now.

Good luck!

AMK

In Support of Modern Medical People

As anyone who has visited my website can easily see, I am a strong advocate of alternative and non-modern medicine. If one didn’t know me, they might even think that I am against modern medicine, hospitals, the American Medical Association (AMA), doctors and even against the often well-meaning organizations with which they are affiliated.

While I feel that many in power of such private and governmental organizations are culpable, discourage and even block patient’s wellness and recovery from ill health, I believe that the vast majority of MDs genuinely care for their patients and would do anything within their power (short of being tossed out of their expensive and hard-earned profession) to help us in anyway that they can.

In my experience, I have enjoyed the services of many fine modern medical practitioners. Perhaps, because I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), I have had occasion to visit more doctors than most people. In so doing, I have always been greeted and treated with utmost warmth and sincerity. I normally come away from such encounters with respect for and appreciation of the modern medical practitioner. They are good people.

Others, with a diverse range of medical conditions and disabilities, report pretty much the same concerned treatment in their communications with me.

As for the modern medical staff, assistants, technicians, nurses, receptionists, and support attendants, these are “Great” people! Never have I encountered a rude or insincere paraprofessional. Not even a telephone appointments receptionist. Being a deaf guy, to boot, I feel that is indeed remarkable. These wonderful professionals in their own right would have given me the clothes off their own backs, if it had not been a requirement that I strip or wear a gown. I love them, each and every one.

It is the pharmacological industry that I have issues with, and not the pleasant and victimized people under their power. It is they, the drug house power brokers that do pretty much what I recall a Senator saying of the international bankers and of the Federal Reserve in another time. On the floor of the senate, the senator rose to charge, “In this dark crew of financial scoundrels, are those who would cut a man’s throat to get a dollar out of his pocket. There are those who send money into states, to buy votes, and to control legislatures.” Does this sound a little like the legal drug lords? It does to me.

Those people involved in the practice of modern medicine have spent long hours in preparation of their own medical practice. Such has been necessary to gain their expertise, skills, and proficiency in administering good patient care. Too late, some even realize that they are powerless to influence the actions of the leaders of their own professions. Yet they have to earn a living too. I feel that they do the best they can under the circumstances.

This does not take away from alternative, complimentary and traditional medical advocates and/or practitioners who have chosen the more difficult, yet ultimately more rewarding path to improved patient health. Abused and accused as they are by the purveyors of pharmaceuticals, Naturopaths, Chiropractors, Herbalists, Homeopaths and “alternative” medicinal professionals are often a viable alternative to modern medicine because they can often achieve healing for their patients via natural and herbal methods, rather than by surgical and/or pharmacological means.

These people are purveyors of traditional medicine, their traditions stem back to Plato and Aristotle, as do the traditions of the modern medical professionals, but the modernists have stepped out of their traditional role. Traditionally, medical practitioners were involved with healing the individual.

Today, medical practitioners, despite their well-meaning intentions, are so governed by the drug houses that their traditional methods have been cast aside by the determination of the drug houses to increase their profits at the expense of the sick. The drug houses have even gone to the extent of forcing legislation upon us that says: Only drugs and surgery can cure disease. Sadly, this is what the modern medical practitioner has to live with.

Even so, I publish this brief article in support of the modern medical “People.”