In 2011, the typical American family of four shelled out more than $8,000 for basic health care services — up 9.2 percent over 2010, according to the Milliman Medical Index.
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Even with chilling stats like those, Joshua Greenberg, CEO of HealthCPA, says we're making the same mistake over and over again when it comes to cutting medical costs:
"People don't realize that they need to be persistent and stay on top of their medical bills, and (they) just sort of put their heads in the sand, and they ignore it," he says. "The sad observation for me is that people go into it assuming it will all work out. It's remarkable."
It could mean the difference between paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for treatment.
"One of our members went to a hospital by ambulance, and he ended up owing $1,500," Greenberg says. "But when we looked into it and really understood the fine print, our advocate recognized that the emergency trip should have been treated as an in-network benefit."
After addressing the issue, he wound up paying only $400.
HealthCPA helps clients by managing their entire health care portfolio (think of them as a medical financial adviser). It's their job to spot costly errors, play the middleman between insurers and providers, and put as much money back in patients' pockets as possible.
Apart from being more aggressive, Greenberg and his team have come up with nine other ways to cut your health care costs:
1. Know the difference between an Explanation of Benefits form and your medical bill.
Your provider (i.e., your doctor or the hospital where you received care) sends you a bill telling you what you need to pay. Your insurance company sends you an EOB explaining why you need to pay that amount.
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2. Don’t pay up front until you're sure it's correct
If you make a payment to a provider and then find out later that you paid too much, it can be difficult to recoup that money.
3. Check everything down to the most basic information
That means your name, address, dates of service, and your insurers. This is crucial if you've recently changed your benefits, which could potentially cover more of the cost.
4. Get an itemized bill from your provider
Request one if you have to, but you shouldn't rely on whatever your doctor sends you, as it can sometimes be difficult to read and understand. With all your charges listed one by one, you'll know exactly how things add up.
5. Be sure your insurance actually kicked in
Even in-network providers can screw up and fail to apply your insurance to your bill. If your bill doesn't show an insurance payment or an insurance discount, that's a major red flag.
6. Don't even think about paying without your Enrollment of Benefits form
An EOB usually tells you exactly how much the service cost that you received and the lower rate your medical provider has agreed to accept. It lists out how much the insurance company will pay and how much you should pay. That'll help you avoid any costly billing errors. If you haven't received your EOB yet, call your insurer.
7. Persistence is key
Don't back down till you've gotten your issue addressed and seen it resolved in writing. Keep track of whomever you speak to on the phone, along with the date and the time.
8. Don't let your bills fall into collections
Per HealthCPA: "Providers are sending past due accounts to collections more quickly than ever before. You should certainly take the time to make sure your bill is correct, but do not ignore the provider’s request for payment while you take the time to do this."
Tell them you're working on the bill, and they'll likely give you time to do so.
9. Ask for an interest-free payment plan if you can't cover the whole bill
Even if you don't qualify for hospital financial assistance programs (which are based on income), your provider may still let you work out a payment plan. Just don't skip out on any of your monthly payments.
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