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When you have a child with special needs, you can almost bet money on the fact that there is a medical bill waiting in your mailbox for you at least once a week. Maybe you have billing departments blowing up your phone. Maybe you get late notices in the mail each day. How do you get back on track with medical bills?
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It can be easy to get overwhelmed by all of the medical paperwork coming to your mailbox every single day. You might even be in survival mode and avoid opening up any of the envelopes or answering the calls. You kind of hope that if you ignore it, something magical will happen and someone will come along and pay them or the insurance will pay them or something, anything.
That’s not going to happen, so what do you do? How do you get back on track when you feel like you are derailed? You just have to rip off the Band-Aid and get to work. There isn’t an easy way to say it. It will take a time commitment to get a system going for organizing your medical bills and getting them current when you are behind. After you are up and running, it can be easy to maintain.
First you need to get your medical paperwork organized so you can see who and what you owe.
Steps to Organize Your Medical Bills and Make Arrangements to Bring Them Current
1. Find all of the paper.
Go around your house and find all of the paper. Check everywhere (your glovebox, junk drawer, pile of paper on your counter, your purse). Find them all and put them in one big stack.
2. Open up any envelopes and throw away any unnecessary stuff
Open up all of the envelopes and throw away any of the unnecessary stuff (like the return envelopes, privacy notices, etc.) and anything else you see. You just need the 1-2-page bill. These will have a phone number and a website on them, so you can pay them over the phone or internet. You don’t have to mail them.
3. Organize the pile of paper
A. Organize all of the stacks of paper by sender.
Put all the ones from Children’s Hospital in the same stack, the pediatrician in another stack, etc.
B. Organize the little piles by billing department.
If you get several bills from your Children’s Hospital, you might need to organize the pile farther. The bill will usually state the department name at the top. Our local Children’s Hospital will send bills that say Physician Billing & Facility Billing. These are different billing departments and you will handle them separately.
C. Organize by date
Organize each pile in date order.
4. By now, you might have several piles.
If you do, go ahead and put a paperclip, rubber band, turn them sideways, or sticky note on each stack. Just put them in one pile but still divided out by billing office.
5. Reconcile each bill
So, this step can be complex if you aren’t familiar with insurance billing as most people aren’t.
First and foremost, let’s go over what each document in the reconciliation process is.
Billing statement- from the billing office (physician or facility). This is mailed to you after they file with your insurance statement only IF they are showing record of you owing them money. Otherwise, you won’t get any mail.
Insurance statement- This is ALWAYS sent to you in the mail after the billing office submits a claim for a visit.
Insurance policy- this can be found from whoever provides your insurance. Your employer will have a copy, or it will be in your online account on the insurance website.
Work through your stack 1 by 1 and reconcile each billing statement.
Look at the billing statement and see if the amount they are stating you owe matches the amount the insurance company is stating you owe on the insurance claim statement. If anything looks off, or you have any questions, you will have to check your policy documents, call the billing office, or the insurance customer service number. It may have been misfiled or not even filed at all.
6. Figure out what you owe each billing department.
After you reconcile your medical bills, start working through the piles and calling each department. This will be easier if you have a tracker. (We have a Medical Bill Log in our Resource Library that’s free for subscribers. Sign up here or below). You are going to treat each stack kind of like a checking account. You are going to figure out what you owe and keep a “check register” type log for each account.
Even if you feel like you know what you owe the department, call them anyway. You might have missed a bill or already paid a bill and didn’t keep record of it.
BIG TIP #1: DON’T MISS When you call ANY billing department, take notes. Write down the date, time, operator name, and summary of conversation. This might come in handy if they “lose” or “don’t have” the notes.
When they tell you an amount, ask them what open bills equal up to that amount. This will help you figure out which bills are still owed to the office. If you are missing copies, ask them to resend them.
BIG TIP #2: When you sign your child in at the doctor or hospital, you have to sign a guarantor form which is basically a promise to pay. If you sign in your child this time and your spouse signs them in the next time, they can have an account under your husband’s name and one under your name.
I found this out the hard way. The fix- ask them to put them all under your name no matter who signs your child in. Let your spouse know too so they can write you down for guarantor. This will keep things simpler.
7. Setup payment arrangements
Setup payment arrangements with each billing office. Again, get the date, time, operator name, payment arrangement details, and a summary of the conversation written down for your records. You will be surprised how many times you might need to refer back to this.
Don’t let them pressure you into a certain amount if it’s over your budget. You do need to make payment arrangements in order to avoid collections, but you don’t have to make $500/month payments unless that fits in your budget. My payments are usually $50-$100 at each billing office.
**Tip: You can ask them to direct debit your account if you don’t want to call in the payment every single month. **
8. Keep track of your stuff in a medical bill’s binder.
You will need to get a binder to keep all of this stuff accessible. It will be much easier to keep it all in one place.
Medical bills can be tough when you are in survival mode, but they don’t have to take over your life. You can learn to be organized and on top of your medical bills. Over time, you will master staying on top of your medical bills.
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