Better Budgeting: Medical Bills: I Just Earned $140 with One Phone Call

Medical Bills: I Just Earned $140 with One Phone Call

Living a Better Life® (from the editor's desk)
by Michelle Jones

Recently, I made a phone call to our health insurance company. Instead of getting another hospital bill for $140 today, I just received notice that it has been paid. Wow. That was one valuable phone call. Maybe you have a phone call to make?
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A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

From that perspective, I just 'EARNED' $140!

For most families, including ours, that’s a lot of money. Money the insurance company would have been happy to collect from us if I hadn’t called to question the unexpected charge. I don’t blame the insurance companies completely, but they do seem to make more mistakes than they should. And always in their favor.

The charge was for our recent visit to the ER, which totaled much more. The $140 was an additional bill that we received for the ER physician. I knew we had already reached our annual deductible, but for some reason it looked like our insurance company had increased the deductible and charged the $140 to us at "100% patient’s responsibility".

The bill sat on my desk for a few weeks. I think I was just too irritated to even look at it, let alone deal with it. Ever have a bill like that?

Check Your Benefits

Later on, I pulled out our health insurance benefits booklet to confirm our annual deductible. As it turned out, the deductible amount we had already met was for approved "in-network" providers, and a higher deductible would be charged for "out-of-network" providers. To no fault of our own, the ER doctor was "out-of-network"... we were out of town when the accident happened.

Next, I looked up our benefits for ER (emergency room) visits. Finally, some hopeful news. Emergency visits to any hospital are supposed to be included as "in-network"; even if you're out of town and have to go to an "out-of-network" provider.

Please note that not all insurance policies include this benefit and it’s actually the first time we’ve had one that does. However, I believe it is becoming more common practice now. People do not have time to search for a preferred provider in a true emergency, especially out of town, and being required to do so could be life threatening.

Make the Call

At this point, I figured the insurance company must have just automatically sent this claim out to us, stamping it with an "out-of-network" charge for $140, not even looking to see that it was for an emergency. So, I gave them a phone call to bring it to their attention.

They agreed it had been processed in error and they would send it through again. Instead of getting another bill for the $140 today, I just received notice from the insurance company that the full amount has been paid.

If you only knew how close I came to paying this bill!

Eternal Hold

The worst thing about calling insurance companies and hospital billing offices can sometimes be just being put on the dreaded eternal hold. One time last month I was on hold for at least 30 minutes before I finally gave up. So, even though I earned $140 with one phone call, it was a very time consuming one. All the more reason I choose to look at this effort as money saved equals money earned.

What’s almost worse than being put on eternal hold, is those endless loops of automated service recordings. If you go through the recordings long enough, you’ll usually get to a message that says “to speak to a service representative, select 0.” I often wonder what would happen if you selected 0 as soon as you get on the phone with their automated service… I think I will try it from now on.

Saving money can sometimes be a bit of a pain, I won’t argue that. But when it comes to medical bills, you must check every single charge that comes in on your insurance statements and then again when the actual bills come in. Verify every charge, on every bill.

Just in the last 2 months I have saved almost $200 in duplicate or wrong charges on our medical bills. The savings can really add up.

When you do find a mistake or something that just doesn’t look right, make that phone call. If you're lucky enough to get put on eternal hold, try multitasking so the time will (at least seem to) go faster! ;o)

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Have a lot of medical bills? You may find our Medical Bills Worksheet helpful, or other Budgeting Worksheets

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