Curb Excessive Medical Bills or Funeral Expenses
Well, it’s not a very cheery column title, is it? But every once in a while I have to take on a dour subject because the information could help save you a lot of money down the road. So, here we go.
What’s THAT Charge? How closely do you look at your medical bills? Do you even know what you are looking at half the time? I’m with you; sometimes medical bills are hard to understand because the language and “coding” can be confusing. Guess what? Medical bills can have errors, and it’s not unusual to receive a bill that you don’t actually owe.
Don’t Be Afraid To Question It: What if your bill is incorrect? As in many other areas of life, you are your own best advocate. If your coverage is through your workplace, see if your health insurance representative can help resolve the issue. You could also consider disputing the charge(s), or choose to not pay the first bill until insurance and any other credits have been applied. But be careful not to wait too long to take action, because some medical billing departments are quick to send their past-due accounts to collections. If you have a particularly complex bill (for hospital expenses, for example) there are companies you can hire to find and resolve the mistake(s) for you. Typically, they are paid based on a portion of the error amount they’ve resolved.
That Was How Much? If a medical charge is correct but excessive, see if the medical provider will work with you. You might ask if the billing amount would be different if you had walked in “off the street” without insurance.
You Want the Best, But . . . Another area for possible excessive billing, or overspending, is funeral expenses. Studies have shown that people who have a strong emotional connection to an event (like a wedding or funeral) are much less likely to comparison shop or negotiate. That is one of the reasons it is smart to make funeral arrangements ahead of time. Prices for a full-service funeral can vary up to 200% in the same city! Consider visiting a site like parting.com to see estimates for funeral costs in your area. And, if your loved one did not plan ahead, make sure you bring a neutral third-party person with you to the funeral home when choosing caskets, special services, etc. Aside from the emotional support, an objective friend can help you negotiate costs and make better decisions when you are most vulnerable.