Making sound financial decisions for another person can be very overwhelming for even the savviest caregiver, particularly when it comes to health care. And, while selecting the right Medicare plan for your loved one is critical during this year’s annual enrollment, it’s only the first step, as out-of-pocket costs not covered by Medicare continue to be a major financial burden.
The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College recently calculated that a typical 65-year-old married couple without chronic conditions will need $197,000 to pay for out-of-pocket medical costs throughout retirement.
However, there are simple steps both caregivers and seniors can take to reduce these out-of-pocket expenses throughout the year.
7 tips to help you take charge and ultimately, lower your medical bills
- Match up your paperwork.
After a visit to the doctor or the hospital, you (or your loved one) should receive two pieces of paper: an Explanation of Benefits form (EOB) from the insurance plan and a bill from the provider (i.e., the hospital or doctor’s office.) If you have not received an EOB, that means the insurance plan has not yet determined what your portion of the bill should be, so make sure to get an EOB before making a payment.
- Check the basics.
Make sure that the bill has the correct basic information. This includes name, address, dates of service, and the insurance plan(s).
- Understand and verify the charges.
Many medical bills are difficult to understand and many times don’t contain the details needed. Don’t pay what you don’t understand. Request an itemized bill and review it to make sure you (or your loved one) did indeed receive the services for which you are being charged.
- Make sure that insurance has been applied.
If the bill does not contain line items that show an insurance payment or discount, it is a red flag that your insurance was not applied to the bill and it may have been billed incorrectly.
- Be persistent and don’t back down until issues are resolved.
If you spot any of the red flags mentioned above, call the provider and the insurance plan immediately to resolve the issue.
- Don’t ignore bills and let them go to collections.
Providers send past due accounts to collections and this can negatively affect your (or your loved one’s) credit score. If you are working on a bill, let your provider know and ask them not to send the account to a collections agency.
- Ask for a payment plan or financial assistance.
If you cannot pay the bill all at once, ask the provider if you can arrange for an interest-free payment plan. Many providers also have a financial assistance program available to those who meet the income requirements, and if you qualify, your bill can be significantly reduced.
Joshua Greenberg is Chairman and President of HealthCPA, provider of personal health care financial management services, with a 15-year track-record in medical billing advocacy. The company saves its members money, time, and stress by helping them navigate the complex environment of today’s health care financial system. For more information on the company and its services, go to HealthCPA.com.