In our last blog, we gave pointers on maximizing your health benefits before the start of the new year. With less than four months left in 2014, now’s the time to look ahead and plan for you and your family’s medical needs. This week, we discuss another way you can prepare for 2015: reconcile any outstanding medical bills.
Your Employer Might Switch Insurance Providers
A lot of companies decide to change health insurance providers at the start of a new benefit year. Why? Employers are looking for the best value and that may mean taking their healthcare benefits out to bid. It’s a chance to be proactive and shop around by:
- Assessing the health benefit needs of their employees (you!) and
- Finding a fair price for benefits from an insurance provider.
What This Means For You
If your employer offers a different insurance provider for 2015, it’s in your best interest to reconcile any medical bills filed with your 2014 insurance provider before your benefits switch. That keeps everything as simple and straightforward as possible.
Think of it this way: right now, you’re a member of a healthcare insurance plan. If your employer decides to switch over to a new healthcare insurance company in 2015, that means you’re no longer a member of your current plan. By handling your medical bills before 2015, and a possible change, you make sure:
- You’re a priority since you’re still a member.
- You aren’t juggling between two healthcare insurance providers. For example, if you have some outstanding medical bills from 2014 that aren’t resolved before 2015, that means that you are forced to work with Insurance Provider A (your 2014 insurance provider) to reconcile older bills while navigating your benefits and new bills with Insurance Provider B (your 2015 insurance provider). That’s two member IDs, two formats for EOBs and forms, two sets of healthcare benefit details to read through…
- You’re being proactive about on-going care. If you are receiving on-going care for a longer medical condition, that might mean your care and bills will cross both health insurance providers. In this case, it’s important to keep your documents organized according to insurance provider.
How to Reconcile Your Medical Bills Now
To make things as easy as possible, tackle your 2014 medical bills now. That way, your 2015 will be off to a great start!
Here’s how to handle those outstanding medical bills:
1. Gather all of the right materials.
Up to 80% of medical bills have errors! Make sure to review yours before you pay. To do this, you’ll need a detailed medical bill from each of your doctors and/or facilities. A detailed medical bill is itemized, allowing you to see exactly what you’re being charged for. Contact the billing department of your physician/facility to request a copy of your detailed medical bill.
You’ll also need an EOB (Explanation of Benefits) for your episode of care. This is the “Not a Bill” document issued by your insurance company. It shows the amount owed to your doctor(s) with your benefits applied. You’ll receive this document online or in the mail, depending on how you’ve chosen to receive these statements.
2. Review your medical bills for mistakes.
Match up your detailed medical bills with your EOBs by the dates of service. The amount you owe to your doctors/facilities should be the same on each document. If they’re not, there is a discrepancy. Check for obvious errors. Here are some of the most common:
- The patient name is incorrect.
- The insurance information is not up-to-date.
- The dates of service are not correct.
- There are duplicate charges.
3. If there are mistakes, call your doctor’s office and ask for a corrected bill.
4. Now that you have the correct amount, pay your bills.
Medical providers are putting people into collections sooner, so it’s vital you reconcile your bills in a timely manner and get the payment to your providers.
For a lot of people, that’s easier said than done. Remember, some doctors/facilities are willing to work with you. Payment plans and even discounts are sometimes available. Remember to ask and explore your options.
Read more about handling overwhelming medical bills.
Need help getting your bills in order for 2015? Comment below!