There’s just something a little scary about receiving a medical bill or a letter from your insurance company claiming you owe money. These tiny sheets of paper have the power to send many of us into panic mode. As soon as you receive a medical bill or explanation of benefits (EOB) from your insurance provider, do you immediately whip out your checkbook and mail in your payment? Are you terrified you’ll be turned over to a collection agency if you don’t pay the bill right away? Not so fast! Before you cough up the cash for that medical bill or EOB, it’s important to do a little homework. Don’t simply assume that you have to pay the bill. First of all, it could be a mistake. Secondly, the doctor’s office or hospital will not send your bill to collections right away. And most importantly, if you pay the bill only to realize later that it was covered by your insurance, it can be extremely difficult to get a refund.
So, put away that checkbook and read on to learn the solutions to four common medical bill problems:
Common Problem #1: You receive a bill for a covered service. Let’s say your medical provider sends you a bill for a service or procedure that your insurance has always covered in the past. Don’t assume your insurance provider has simply changed their coverage. More often than not, this just means that the insurance company hasn’t had a chance to pay the bill. If you receive a bill for commonly covered service, let it sit for 30 days. This should give your insurance provider plenty of time to pay off the bill. However, if you receive another bill from the medical provider, give your insurance company a call to find out what’s going on. You should also call the medical provider to let them know that you’re working with the insurance company to make sure they pay.
Common Problem #2: You see the word “DENIED.” You go to the doctor or dentist for a standard service that’s usually covered by your insurance company. However, a few weeks later, you receive a claim stamped with the menacing word, “DENIED” in bright red letters. Don’t freak out because it’s probably just a mistake. The medical provider might have coded the treatment incorrectly. Call your insurance company and make sure the claim matches the actual service you received. If not, let them know what happened, and find out the proper code for your treatment. You might need to follow up with the medical provider, as well.
Common Problem #3: You have a jumbled pile of EOBs and bills and no idea what you owe. If you have a number of EOBs and medical bills, it can be difficult to figure out what goes with what and how much you need to pay. That’s why it’s important to keep all of your medical records as organized as possible. A little bit of organization could save you a whole lot of time, money, and frustration down the road. When you receive a bill from your medical provider, staple it to the coordinating EOB from your insurance company. Keep all of your bills in a folder so you can access them easily and quickly. If you call your insurance company or medical provider to discuss a particular claim, write notes on the EOB or bill to keep track of who you talked to and what you discussed.
Common Problem #4: Only a portion of your claim was paid. Let’s say you received a standard medical treatment that’s typically covered in full by your insurer. But a few weeks later, you discover your insurance company covered only a portion of the claim. It could be a slip-up on the insurer’s end or the medical provider could have coded the treatment incorrectly. But more often than not, this happens when you go to an out-of-network provider. If that’s the case, you’ll probably have to pay this claim. When you go to a provider that is not part of your insurer’s network, you often have to pay more out of pocket. However, if you receive this kind of bill and you’re certain you saw a network provider, give your insurance company a call. It could simply be a mistake.
Of course, this is just a handful of medical billing problems. Patients deal with these and countless other medical billing issues day in and day out. So, the next time you receive a bill or EOB in the mail, don’t panic. When in doubt, call your insurance company and/or the medical provider to discuss your concerns.