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How to Make Sense of Your Medical Bills in 5 Steps

How to Make Sense of Your Medical Bills in 5 Steps

According to a U.S. News and World Report article, about eight in 10 medical bills contain some sort of error. That’s crazy high, which also makes it pretty scary, especially since every error on your medical bill results in you dishing out more dough.

With unfamiliar medical codes and terms, however, it’s difficult for you to know exactly what you’re paying for. But, you’re not only the patient, you are also the customer. Therefore, you have the right to scrutinize every medical bill that you receive and demand an explanation on any charge that looks unfamiliar, too high, or downright suspicious.

In this article, we will give you an overview on what to look for on your bill(s) and who to call if you have issues regarding anything. Get out your highlighter and get ready to mark anything that you have a question about. Keep a notebook handy to write down your questions and notes.

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The Basics

When you begin your medical bill breakdown, it’s best if you begin with what you know: your name, address, insurance information, and admittance and discharge dates.[1] If your insurance information is incorrectly inputted, then you will, for sure, be charged more than you should.

Units

If you are given Tylenol in the hospital to help with your pain, you better believe that you will be charged per capsule. These per-item charges can be found under the “Units” section on your bill.[2] If you are being charged for 500 capsules of Tylenol, then highlight this as an item. There’s no way you took that many capsules during your stay. Double check the number of units per line item to make sure you are not being overcharged for items used during your stay.

Medical Codes

Hospitals and doctor’s offices use codes to identify services rendered.[3] You are charged based on the codes assigned. There are many different types of codes, but Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Codes and International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes are the most well-known.[4]

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CPT codes are ubiquitous in every U.S. doctor’s office and hospital. These are usually listed as service charges. ICD codes accompany CPT codes to assure that the diagnoses fit the billed procedure, prescription, etc.

We’re not saying that you should complete medical billing and coding training online, but you do have the right to contact the billing office of your healthcare provider and have every single code explained to you. Don’t be embarrassed, you’re not the only one requesting this service.

Service Description

Read. Every. Single. Thing. Yes, the service description section should be plentifully packed with each service and item you are being charged for, even for something like Basic Life Support (BLS). In this section, there will be a lot of abbreviations. If you don’t own a medical dictionary, then we suggest using good ole Google.

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Once you have made sense of the abbreviations, get out that highlighter and pad of paper and jot down anything that you don’t remember receiving, or any charges that seem bogus.

Charges

There may come a time where you receive a medical bill with just a summary of charges and the amount owed.[5] This is unacceptable and you need to call into your doctor’s office or the hospital billing department and request a full itemized bill, complete with all codes, units, service descriptions, and individual charges. Once you receive an itemized bill, you should go down the list and look at all of the charges. If some of the charges seem too high, highlight them.

Never ever think that if your hospital or doctor bill says that it is, then it must be so. Remember, it doesn’t matter if your bill is 10 pages long (heaven forbid) — you need to go through each page, line by line, highlighter in hand, and check that everything is correct. You will pay for any error that you don’t catch. So, it’s up to you to be vigilant.

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If you have any questions at all, make sure that you contact the health provider who sent you the bill. You can also contact your insurance company as well. They will be able to help with medical coding, as well as help you understand your patient pay portion of the bill.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

[1] https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/health/how-to-read-your-medical-bill/
[2] http://www.medicalbillingandcoding.org/health-insurance-guide/understanding-medical-bills/
[3] http://vitals.lifehacker.com/how-to-navigate-the-confusing-and-expensive-world-of-me-1765507579
[4] http://www.aarp.org/health/health-care-reform/info-03-2011/how_to_read_your_medical_bill_cpt_codes.html
[5] http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2014/07/15/infographic-how-to-read-your-hospital-bill

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Last Updated on June 26, 2020

25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

“How to save money fast?” This is the question asked by all of us not in the top 1% of rich people.

If you are looking for ways to drastically reduce your expenses immediately, first look at what you need to spend money on every week. And I mean really need.

You don’t really need to order in food. You don’t really need to buy expensive perfume.

Building from that, you can work out how your regular expenses can be reduced.

As for irregular expenses, they can also be deceptively costly in the long run. Once-off buys can also be tackled with some prudent planning and a little extra research.

And remember: a budgeted lifestyle does not mean a bad or boring one!

But first, understand what budget you can cut down on daily:

  • Regular expenses for the average adult (can be trimmed but not eliminated):
    • food
    • rent/mortgage
    • cell phone
    • insurance
    • socializing/entertainment
    • transportation
    • hygiene products
    • household bills
  • Irregular expenses for the average adult (can be eliminated or cut down a lot):
    • travel
    • clothing
    • medication (*depends)
    • grooming (hair, nails etc.)
    • gifts

Now, let’s dive right into the 25 ways to save money fast:

Save Money on Food

1. Bring a stock of food to the office/work

Instead of popping out for an overpriced salad and a smoothie, leave a set of basic utensils at the office as well as a stock of non-perishable goods such as tinned fruit, tuna, rice crackers and so on (try to avoid the junk food and this can turn into a pretty great diet!).

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Stocking up means you won’t forget or say “I didn’t have the time” when you rushed out to work in the morning.

2. Buy the store-brand version

Many basic foods, such as bread and milk, will taste exactly the same as their branded alternatives. Go for stuff with minimal additives and preservatives. Meat in a tube is probably insanely unhealthy!

3. Eat cheaper cuts of meat

Learn how to tenderize and flavour cheaper meat and fish, and save on the (typically) most expensive item on your grocery bill.

4. Have group dinners

If 10 friends put $5 each in the kitty, it’s pretty easy to make a giant lasagne and get refreshments, as well as hang out with your favourite people.

Save Money in Transport

5. Get a bicycle

Save on gas money and bus/metro fares with this underrated mode of transport.

6. Use public transport and/or don’t get taxis

Some places can only be reached by car. But as a good practise, check your public transport website and see if any routes pass nearby where you need to get to. Walk as much as you can.

7. Find the cheapest gas

Regularly check out where the cheapest gas can be bought.

Save Money in General Shopping

8. Shop online

Not only will you save on the gas or transport fares from going to the shopping mall but you will also find better deals

9. Sell your old stuff

Get your unwanted belongings up on eBay ASAP and earn a few dollars.

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Here’re more ideas for you: 25 Things to Sell to Make a Lot of Money

10. Bulk buying stores

For regular non-perishable/slow perishable purchases such as toilet paper, cat food, pasta, washing powder and so on, do an epic stocking-up trip to a co-op or equivalent (my mum used to go to a place that restaurants buy from).

Be wary of supermarket “deals”, as some have been found to be fraudulent after working out a simple calculation.

11. Become a flea market/car boot sale/street market guru

You can find original gifts and develop good negotiation skills at these places.

12. Generic brand medication

More often than not, the generic version of paracetamol and other basics work the same as the branded version.

13. Choose deodorant, not perfume

It blows my mind when someone drops $70 on a bottle of spray. Stick with a nice deodorant, and not only will you smell just fine but you’ll be sweat-free as well!

Cut Down on Household Expenses

14. Printing

Ink is one of the most expensive substances in the office and coloured ink is doubly so. B

e more efficient and choose black and white, and if your printer doesn’t have a print-both-sides options, just print odd pages first, re-insert the paper and print even pages.

Expand the margins of what you are printing as often as you can to save on paper.

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15. Minimize SMS and phone calls

A combination of a free chat service such as WhatsApp and a free call service such as Skype can reduce your bill to nothing (so long as you have a decent Wifi connection).

16. Shop around for insurance

Most people don’t spend enough time searching for the best insurance deal.

Keep a watchful eye out for deals and new competitors in the market.

17. Try re-negotiating your rent/mortgage

If you have built up a good credit history or a good rapport with your landlord, then chances are a frank chat about needing to tighten your spending could result in lowering your payments. You’ve nothing to lose from trying.

18. Don’t get a TV

Invest in a computer/laptop and an internet-only package. You can watch more (and often better) entertainment on the web, and skip the advertisements as well.

19. Pool your internet bill with a neighbour

My apartment building is basically a big old house split into three apartments. There are five of us in total. We pool the internet bill, making it crazy cheap.

Save Money in Socializing, Entertainment And Travel

20. Have house parties

Instead of paying for overpriced drinks, set up a series of in-house get-togethers with your friends. Everyone takes a turn, so it’s not always your house that needs cleaning.

For sound insulation, hang heavy drapes on the walls and windows. For music, invest in a good second-hand set of speakers which you can connect to your computer. Let Spotify or Grooveshark playlists do the rest.

21. Open festivals, meetups and events

It never fails to surprise me how much underground stuff goes on around me for free or for very cheap. Find out who runs the blogs and websites that list all the less well-known cultural activities.

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22. Volunteer

If you can’t pay for a ticket, volunteer and get to be there anyway.

23. Housesit

There are multiple housesitting websites offering you the possibility to avoid paying hotels and skip the discomfort of crummy hostels.

Save Money on Hygiene and Beauty

24. DIY beauty

French manicures, pedicures, waxing, eyebrows… pretty much all of these can be achieved at home (and done well) with some practise. There are plenty excellent blogs and YouTube tutorials to help.

25. Fewer haircuts/volunteer at a trainee hairdresser

If you can’t bear the risk of a trainee touching your locks, learn more ways to manipulate your hair as it grows and get haircuts sparingly. Women’s haircuts are outrageously priced in many cities.

Bonus: Effective Money-Saving Tips for Everything

Here’s a summary of what you can generally do to save more money:

  • Share/pool resources. Organize a neighbourhood sharing scheme, common resources for your apartment block or with your friends. Not everybody needs an individual lawnmower.
  • Buy energy-saving everything. The easiest way to lower your bills – replace those lightbulbs!
  • Buy in bulk. Be sensible about it (i.e. make sure you have space!), and drastically reduce weekly expenditure.
  • DIY. Skill up using YouTube tutorials on plumbing and many other essential services so you never have to pay for simple problems again.
  • Research a lot before making a decision. Most money-wasting is the result of poor preparation and planning. Don’t shirk this part just because you don’t like it!
  • Use your network. Your network is full of resources that can ease the pain of budgeting. Ask for help.
  • Stop and think. Do I really need it?

Unfortunately, there are some things that require plain ol’ giving up for the time being. This can include high-cost sports such as skiing, the latest versions of some technologies, the finest brands of food/drinks, premier seats at the opera and most other indulgences.

What is important to remember during lean times is that when you look back on your life, it will be the experiences that stand out, not the extra comforts.

Living on a budget can teach you a lot about how much you can really get out of your paycheck. We only live one life, so make the most of every penny you earn!

More Tips for Personal Finance Management

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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