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 Bill Help: Compare Healthcare Costs Before Proceeding With Treatment

The costs of medical and health care services have been rising steadily for many years, and American consumers are feeling the pinch in a big way. Many American individuals and families are now facing extremely high medical debts, some of them for fairly routine or minor health care procedures or treatments. With the private insurance system looking to offset costs, and very little in the way of a safety net for consumers, medical bankruptcy threatens many thousands of families each year.

Now, medical advocates are telling American patients to go a step further than many of them are accustomed to: new guidelines from experts in the industry suggest that consumers should be asking medical providers about how much a certain procedure, treatment or even a consultation may cost before they ever step in the door of the medical office.

Barriers to Asking Questions About Healthcare Services

In prior times, most patients were not used to asking their doctors what something would cost – there was a kind of intuitive understanding that since medical care is something that nobody wants to skimp on, it’s not a situation where prices can be negotiated. Over time, that led up to a system where insurance plans, largely those provided by group employers, covered major costs, leaving a patient with a straightforward co-pay or deductible that would represent their total financial responsibility.

These days, even a group plan doesn’t protect the average consumer from receiving extremely expensive medical bills after getting nearly any kind of health care service. Larger co-pays, larger deductibles and co-insurance mean looming costs for many Americans as medical costs continue to skyrocket and other issues like deceptive out of network charging leave many patients with much more debt than they thought they were going to incur when they arrived at a hospital or other facility.

Can Americans Shop for Health Care?

What new reports are showing is that the best way to shop around for health care is to ask your insurance company. Most of the efforts at cataloging the various rates that different providers charge for services are done by big insurers like CIGNA, Anthem Blue Cross, and other multi-state insurance companies. Patients can also ask their insurance company which providers have a contractual plan that forces them to charge a certain set price for a given medical service.

Over time, this trend will probably continue, to the point where American patients routinely ask their insurance company to help them shop. For most enrolled members, the insurance company has a vested interest in that person getting the cheapest medical care possible. While these kinds of partnerships between private insurers and individual patients can help both parties to rack up less medical debt for the same kinds of treatments and procedures, there’s also a great need for more patient education, where consumer advocates are standing in for states and the federal government when it comes to providing fixes for a problem that is challenging the majority of American families today.

Ways to Pay Off Medical Bills If You Don’t Have Healthcare Coverage

The impact of health insurance premiums and treatment costs continues to be a major concern for consumers. In addition, a recent industry survey indicated that 77% of consumers struggled using their health insurance in the past year. While we anticipate what’s to come on the healthcare landscape, here are some ways to reduce and or at least manage your medical costs, with or without insurance.

  1. Speak Up: Let your healthcare provider know how medical costs can impact your personal situation. Most providers provide quality care. Sometimes, this could mean extra costs to you. However, if you plainly explain to your doctor your concerns and are seeking ways to keep them in line while effectively treating your condition, s/he can prepare a treatment plan with this in mind.
  2. Unnecessary Procedures: Understanding your sensitivity to costs, your physician might eliminate less necessary tests or delay tests, if possible, without compromising your situation.
  3. Generic Medications: Costing up to 80% less and just as effective as brand names is a good way to reduce the prices of your prescriptions. There are a number of good resources for this.
  4. Online Research: Do your homework before the procedure to compare costs in your area. Use this information as a guideline. Remember, there are many factors in determining why a procedure costs what it does. In addition, contact your own insurance plan or use their cost estimator tool.
  5. Right Facilities: Urgent care clinics can cost a fraction of hospitals and emergency rooms when it comes to doing procedures, tests or blood tests. These are good for non-emergency care.
  6. Cash Payments: If you can pay cash, ask about cash discounts. It’s less work for the administrative offices.
  7. Payment Plan: Avoid putting a large medical bill on a credit card. Instead, ask if you can pay using a pay plan. Most providers offer this and in some hardship cases, they might even reduce what you owe. Find out what your doctor’s payment options are.
  8. Medical Advocates: For complicated cases, a medical or patient advocate offers services including helping to research treatment options, tracking paperwork and negotiating lower rates. You may have to pay a fee but it can help unravel complex paperwork or lower outstanding medical costs.
  9. Billing Mistakes: Check your explanation of benefit (EOB) statements to make sure they are correct. Compare them to your actual bill. Industry studies suggest many bills contain errors because of incorrect coding and other reasons. Do not hesitate to call the billing department or your insurance plan’s support hotline to get to the bottom of the bill if you suspect it is incorrect or simply want clarification.
  10. Understand Your Medical Insurance: Make sure your insurer is still in your market and that your provider and facility remains in-network. Many consumers are shocked when they receive a bill they thought would be covered by their insurance only to find out the provider or the facility was out of network with their plan.