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Tips for Managing Medical Bills

2011 October 6 by

Many of our clients at Bankruptcy Law Professionals of Colorado are overwhelmed with medical bills. We often hear that they are frustrated by receiving confusing notices, multiple bills from multiple providers, and sometimes duplicate statements. Medical bill problems are becoming fairly commonplace. In fact, according to The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills prompt more than 60% of U.S. bankruptcies.

So if you’re knee-deep in a pile of medical bills, here are some tips for staying organized and managing your bills.

TAKE SOME TIME TO UNDERSTAND THE BILLS

Medical bills can be confusing – containing medical jargon, complicated calculations, and information about benefit coverage. If you do a little research and gain a basic understanding of how a medical bill is typically laid out, you will give yourself the foundation you need to get a handle on them.

In particular, take time to understand the bills that you get most often from a specific provider. If you will repeatedly see one certain physician, it will be worth your while to understand the bill for their services. Call your insurance provider or the medical office directly if you have any questions.

Here’s a great article on Understanding Medical Bills – http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/pat-advocacy/healthcare/888.html

It’s also important to understand your insurance benefits or if you use supplemental insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, to know what is covered.

PHYSICIALLY ORGANIZE THE BILLS

Grab yourself a file cabinet, set of folders, or accordion file, along with your pile of bills and get to work organizing them. This will help you spot any duplicates and past-due notices, plus will help you stay organized in the future.

To tackle this, start by separating the bills by provider (hospital or doctor’s office you visited), putting the oldest bills on the bottom. If you haven’t already, mark all paid bills with PAID. Pin any duplicates together and flag any past-due notices with a sticky note. Or hold those out in a separate pile to be paid.

Now sort through the documents called Explanation of Medical Benefits and any Medicare or Medicaid statements – sort those by provider and place those with the correct date of service in your previous sorting. Look through your remaining pile for any supplemental insurance statements, payment statements, receipts, prescription information, and claim forms – put everything applicable to a service date together. For example, if you had a hospital visit on May 15th, find everything related to that visit and keep it together in one folder or file.

WRITE UP A TO-DO LIST

As questions or action items arise during your sorting, don’t stop organizing, just jot these items down. For example, if you have supplemental insurance to pay for remaining balances and need to fill out paperwork for a certain service, make a note of the service date and provider and get back to it. Or if you have to make a follow-up call to understand a charge, write that down as well.

For payment due dates, keep reminders in a central location, such as a wall calendar, daytimer, or online calendar. Or set up automatic payments through your online banking function.

DOCUMENT THE PROCESS

It might also be helpful to keep notes on what you’re doing as you follow up. So the next time comes around that you have to follow a certain insurance procedure or download a form online, you’ll jog your memory about what to do. You can also start a spreadsheet of payments made – or even simpler, a written list in a notebook.

TURN TO A SERVICE FOR HELP

If you are using an employer-sponsored health plan, you might have access to an online program that helps you understand your benefits and keep track of expenses. If not, there are other options:

SIMPLEE – an online healthcare service where you pay your medical bills, track your spending, and consolidate healthcare accounts to manage plans, claims, and more.

http://simplee.com/why-simplee

MEDICAL BILLS PLUS – software that provides an easy way to record medical visits and costs as they occur, and to calculate and display information that enables you to effectively manage your medical insurance program.

http://www.sparrow-technologies.com/mbplus.htm

SMART MEDICAL CONSUMER – a web-based service for consumers to manage their medical expenses, with features including automatic detection of medical billing mistakes.

http://www.smartmedicalconsumer.com/

IN THE NEXT ISSUE: We will continue our advice on handling medical bills, including tips to help if you need more time to pay or want to negotiate costs.

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TEAM MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

2011 October 6 by

MARK MYERS, LAW CLERK

I understand you worked for Jesse two years ago, then went law school. Tell me what you did for Jesse back then.
In August 2006, my wife and I had moved from Chicago to the Denver-area so my wife could start her Master’s program. I found Jesse’s office through the Christian Legal Society directory. I started out as a case preparation paralegal. About a year later, I switched positions to work as the case manager. In that position, I oversaw the entire life of our clients’ cases from consult to discharge (or plan confirmation). I also answered our clients’ questions about their cases. I left the firm in the summer of 2008 to move back to Illinois to begin law school at Northern Illinois University, College of Law, Dekalb, IL.

Did you plan to specialize in bankruptcy law?
I wasn’t sure what area of law I wanted to specialize in when I started school, but I knew that I wanted to practice law to help people by making the legal system more accessible to those in need.

What made you contact Jesse after you graduated?
Jesse and I stayed in contact over e-mail and Facebook after I left. During my last year of school, I e-mailed him to get his advice and insight into the current legal market. The long and short of it is, Jesse offered me a position to come on as an associate when I finished school. I was thrilled at the opportunity because I really enjoy Jesse as a person and respect him as an attorney and manager.

In your soon-to-be attorney position, what will your role/duties be in the firm?
As an attorney I will have lots of new responsibilities. I will sign my name to the documents that are filed with the court. I will meet with clients to provide them with legal counsel. Additionally, I will also appear before the court on our client’s behalf and accompany them to their 341 meetings, which is a fact-gathering meeting with the creditors.

What do you enjoy most about bankruptcy law?
The part of bankruptcy law that I enjoy the most is hearing our clients’ stories and being able to offer them hope and a real opportunity with a fresh start. I also enjoy trying to figure out how the “weird” cases should get resolved.

Once you’ve completed the bar exam, what will you do with your spare time?
Once the bar is over I look forward to spending my free time with my wonderful wife, our fun little two-year old boy, and our daughter that is due here this September. In addition to spending time with my family I love brewing beer at home, mountain biking, camping, and snowboarding. I am very much looking forward to this next chapter in my life.

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Have you reached your breaking point?

2011 October 6 by

“Know contentment, and you will suffer no disgrace; know when to stop, and you will meet with no danger. You can then endure.” – Lao Tzu

How do you know when you’ve reached your breaking point – when you’ve pushed your limits too far? Is it when you can’t sleep? Can’t eat? Can’t concentrate? It can be hard to tell when enough is enough and you are in full burnout mode. But sometimes too much is, well, too much.

We want to hear from you – comment on this blog post and tell us if you’ve ever reached your breaking point and how you knew. Maybe even give us a tip on how you got through it. Many people like you read this blog and it’s our hope it becomes a community that helps each other.

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