Eight Tips for Addressing Medical Billing Issues

Recently, I had the pleasure (sarcasm intended) of dealing with a collections agency regarding a $20.00 medical debt from 2015. I found this FASCINATING, as I had never received any bills related to this visit, nor had I actually had an office visit on the day on the bill! It got me thinking that now is a great time to review some tips for dealing with these medical bills.

  1. Don’t be afraid to fight a claim! Mistakes in medical billing are made all the time. It is our jobs as consumers of a service to advocate for ourselves.
  1. Ask your provider, before you leave the office, how the visit is being coded. Is it an annual preventative care visit? If so, there should be no co-pay. If this is an office visit for any other reason, you are responsible for the copay for that visit. Pay it at the time of visit. Get a receipt.
  1. When the EXPLANATION OF BENEFITS (EOB) form arrives from your insurance company, review it for ANY discrepancies IMMEDIATELY. This is what goes to the billing office at the provider and serves as a communication piece between your insurer and your provider’s billing department to issue appropriate bills. Report any discrepancies or errors to the provider’s office. Staple the receipt for your office copay to that EOB. File it in your medical insurance file.
  1. What medical insurance file, you ask? Time to create one! Even if you aren’t sick, it is so important to have a paper trail of all visits, EOB’s, payments and bills. You don’t need anything fancy. A simple file folder will work. Keep it in one place and put EVERYTHING related to your medical insurance claims and activities in that folder.
  1. Write down the name of EVERY person you talk to at your provider’s office or at the insurance company. Also write down the date of your call and if you left a message. Keep track of what numbers you call as well. If you send any emails, print a copy of the email and put it with your claim information in your medical insurance file.
  1. Don’t pay anything until ALL avenues have been exhausted. You will never get a refund.
  1. If your account is forwarded to a collections agency, contact them immediately and inform them of the steps you have taken to resolve the problems. Be sure to tell them you are disputing the bill. You can also ask to not receive any further phone calls regarding the claim from the collections agency.
  1. Your claim is at collections, but you are fighting it—what about your credit rating?
  • Credit reporters allow a 180 day waiting period BEFORE medical debt can be included in your credit report. This allows time for medical claims to be processed appropriately by the insurance company (and sometimes to go through appeals) before it is labeled as an unpaid debt.
  • Once medical debt has been resolved (paid off), by either an insurance company or an individual, medical debt must be removed from your credit report by the credit reporting companies.
  • While your healthcare provider/hospital itself may not report your medical debt to credit bureaus, once your debt is “sold” to a collection agency, it likely WILL be reported and show up on your credit report. Those credit scores impact many things, including your ability to secure loans (think house or car), lower interest rates on those loans, credits cards, and can even impact your ability secure employment!
  • Get a copy of your credit report annually and review it carefully. You are entitled to a FREE credit report once a year from each of the 3 credit bureaus, so get one from each spaced out over the year. Access your FREE credit report here.

I’m annoyed at all the work and time I’ve had to put in to settling a $20 medical debt. I can’t imagine being sick and having to deal with all of this. If you are struggling with keeping on top of your bills, claims and records, ask a family member, friend or social worker in your provider’s office for assistance. Don’t let the bills pile up, hoping for the best. Outstanding medical debt can have a lasting impact on your financial well-being. If you see something on your claims that doesn’t seem correct, say something. In the long run, nothing will ever change in medical billing until consumers consistently speak up for change (and more change in our pockets).

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