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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 April 3, 2019

How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all.

By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it.

This post will provide some tips on how you can do this to help you nix your credit card debt in less than 3 years.

Hint: there are ways that are easier than you think.

1. Consider Consolidating Multiple Credit Cards If Possible

This may not be applicable to you, but if you have multiple cards – it is something to consider. Keeping up with multiple bills is time consuming.

It will depend on the balance you have on each. Consolidate ones you can but do not do it to the point that you get too close to the maximum limit. Also, it is ideal to pick the card with the lower interest rate.

Consider if there are any fees or alternatively, rewards, with transferring a balance to another card. Watch out for fees. Note that some cards offer rewards for transferring a balance to them. This is extra cash that can help go towards paying off your debt.

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Having one or two cards can make nixing your debt much simpler than keeping up with the balance of a bunch of cards. Keeping track of paying the minimum towards a bunch of cards is time consuming. Spend the time to consolidate instead to make the overall process simpler going forward.

My tip: Have one main credit card. Have a second one that you use for necessities – such as groceries or gas – that offers rewards for those purchases (a lot of cards do) and set the second one on auto-pay. You should be able to pay off a smaller amount on auto-pay if it is a necessity. If you think you cannot, then you may need to cut down a lot on expenses.

Why do I suggest doing this? Having one thing set to auto-pay is one less thing to think about. One less thing to waste time on. Same idea with consolidating to one main card. Tracking down too many is a hassle.

2. Try to Pay the Full Balance You Spent Each Month at the Very Least

You need to pay off the amount you are spending each month when that bill comes in. This is the amount you spent THAT month.

Do not let the debt keep accruing while you work on paying any unpaid debt that has accrued. It will become a never-ending battle. Try as best as you can to be current on paying for each month’s expenses when that month’s bill comes out.

If this is a strain, consider why. You may need to cut expenses. Or you may need to consider other cards. Or look at where this money is going.

3. Pay Extra When You Can – Every Small Amount Counts

This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking at a lot of credit card debt, it can look daunting, but each extra amount that you can put towards the debt will really add up – no matter how small it is.

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It does not just reduce the principal amount that you have left to pay off, but it reduces the amount that is collecting interest. You will always save money with that reduced interest.

4. Create a Plan on How to Pay Extra

Back to the main point, having this plan is giving you one less thing to think about.

This plan should be a plan that works for you. If it does not work for you, your spending habits, and your views on debt, then it will not be an effective plan.

For instance, if a set plan of an extra $50 (or another amount that you know you can afford) works for you, then do that. Set that aside every month and pay that extra amount. Treat it like a bill. Choose an amount that works for you and pay it like clockwork as though it was a bill you had to pay each month.

Little amounts will not nix it entirely, but they will help tackle it and having a set plan can make it less of a chore. Creating a new plan of how much to put towards it each month is an unnecessary added stress.

5. Cut out Costs for Services You Do Not Use

If you are signed up for subscriptions that you do not use because of some free trial or for some other reason, cut it out. Your overall financial position will look better.

In turn, that will make cutting your credit card debt easier. Look at your statements to find these expenses. If you do not use them, you may forget you are paying some unnecessary amount each month. Cutting it out can really add up in savings that you can put towards other needed expenses.

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6. Get Aggressive About It

Consider these points:

Depending on the interest and the level of debt, you may need to give up a few indulgences. For example, instead of ordering delivery or going out to eat, cook at home. Everything adds up.

Other things may be more of a sacrifice. It may be a trip you wanted to go on, or a daily latte habit you’ve picked up. In these instances, consider how important it is to you and if it’s worth the sacrifice. And if it is a costly expense, think whether you can wait to indulge.

Cutting an extravagant expense can really help make a dent in your overall debt. Try not to add to debt when you are trying to pay it off. It will be a never-ending battle. Make it less of a battle with these tips and it will feel easier.

Bottom line: Do what you can to make this process easier for you. Implement steps that do this. It takes time now, but will help overall. Also, keep track of your spending and paying down of your debts. Which is the next point.

7. Reevaluate Your Progress at Set Intervals

Doing a regular check-in can help you see your efforts pay off or maybe indicate that you need to give this a bit more effort. If you check every 3-6 months, it will not feel so much like a chore or feel so daunting.

By doing this, you will be able to better understand your progress and perhaps readjust your plan. Bonus: if you see it pay off, it will feel great to do this check-in. You will get there.

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Finally (and most importantly)…

8. Keep Trying

Do not get discouraged. Pushing it off will make it worse. Just keep trying.

Once your debt becomes lower, each monthly payment will reduce the balance more. Why? You are paying less towards interest. It will be a snowball effect eventually and it will become much easier to manage. Just get to that point. And know once you do, it will feel easier and motivating.

Start Knocking out Your Debt Today

The best way to eliminate debt is to get started right away. Begin by implementing the above steps and watch your debt just melt away. Try out some of the above strategies and see what works best for you. Soon you’ll be on your way to a debt free life.

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