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Archive for the ‘Insurance’ Category

How to Manage Unpaid Hospital Bills?

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Are you overwhelmed by the medical debt you have accumulated? If so, you are not alone. Many people find themselves unable to pay hefty hospital bills. Unfortunately, medical debt can affect your credit history especially if the hospital decides to refer your case to a collection agency.

How can you manage unpaid hospital bills?

First, get a clear idea of how much you owe. This should be easy. Just ask someone from the hospitals billing department to send you a detailed bill of the services you have received and the cost of service. Details such as cost of tests, scans, and doctor’s fees should also be included in the itemized bill. Once you receive the detailed bill, verify it and make sure it is correct.

Next, think about a plan that would allow you to repay the outstanding amount without getting you in a financial bind. The best thing to do would be to try and negotiate a plan with the hospital. Explain your financial situation to them and work out a plan that permits you to pay off your debt in installments. Remember to be honest and practical about the amount you can pay each month. Ask the concerned authorities about any late fees or miscellaneous you will have to pay so that it does not come as a surprise.

Once you have worked out a plan, try and pay your installments on time. You can either pay in person or by check or online.

Demand that the hospital provides you a receipt for every payment you make. Keep the receipts safely so that you have ample proof that the bills have been paid. You can also ask the hospital to give you a statement mentioning that your bills have been cleared.

If you cannot afford to pay in installments, try and seek help from charities. Several charities are willing to help those who genuinely require financial aid with their hospital bills. Search the internet for charities which offer financial help with medical bills. Medical Billing Advocates of America is one such charity. There are several others which you can approach.

Some people choose to declare bankruptcy in their efforts to get relief from hospital bills. Try your best not to do this. Bankruptcy is sure to be on your credit record for a long time and this will not create a good impression with those who run a background check on you. For instance, you may need to get one done while looking for a job.

Similarly, mortgaging your house or paying off your hospital bills with your credit card is not a good idea. You will have to pay interest while repaying the debt. Medical bills do not charge interest so by choosing to pay it though mortgage or credit card; you will be spending money unnecessarily. Moreover, you will be paying an even bigger amount than you would if you negotiated with the hospital directly. Also you will be putting your home or property at risk.

Debt collection agencies are another hassle you will have to deal with if you have unpaid hospital bills. You can ask debt collectors to verify your debt before they contact you so that you get some time to arrange for payment. You can also request them not to contact you while you work out a suitable medical debt repayment plan.

Clearing medical debt requires a good deal of patience and negotiation from your side and from the hospital authorities. You can work out a plan together that works fine for both parties.

How to get health insurance after layoff?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

If someone is laid off, he/she has the option of signing up for COBRA. What if COBRA is too expensive? Group health insurance policies can help you if you don’t want to opt for COBRA. It’s also ideal for small business owners. Wall Street Journal published an article today explaining how to get health insurance using group policy.

Form a small business or use your existing business to buy group insurance policy to save on insurance costs especially if you have pre-existing conditions. Although this option is not cheap for young people, it will work out better for 50+ crowd. Even if you are the only one employee in your business, you may be still able to participate in group insurance policy of your company.

Related Link: Improved COBRA insurance subsidies for the unemployed

Free Viagra for the Unemployed

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Unemployment insurance, welfare benefits, food coupons…. you can add free viagra in that list. Pfizer says it will provide 70 of its most widely prescribed prescription drugs — including Viagra and Lipitor– for free to people who have lost their jobs and health insurance. Complete story is here.

Soaring medical insurance costs hurting Americans badly

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Health and medical insurance costs have skyrocketed in the last few years, growing much more quickly than the overall rate of inflation. A study conducted earlier this year highlights just how bad things could get if there isn’t some kind of health care reform. The study, published January 28th of this year by the Public Interest Research Group, estimates that employer-paid family health policy programs will more than double in their costs between now and 2016 if there aren’t major reforms to stop the current trends.

The current path of soaring health insurance costs is a vicious cycle that does a whole lot of harm to the economy of the United States and the world as a whole. Employers are being forced to pay a whole lot more to offer health insurance programs to their employees, and in turn employees are being forced to pay much higher premiums for similar or lesser health care coverage.

This has led to many Americans beginning to opt out of certain parts of their medical insurance plans, and even some Americans being forced to drop insurance coverage altogether. Some Americans are placing the blame squarely on their employer, which isn’t that fair since the employer in many cases is being squeezed by the rise in their costs to offer those medical insurance programs to the employee.

Some companies are trumpeting plans such as high-deductible health savings plans as cheaper options for health insurance. That sounds great until someone in your family gets quite sick and you realize the coverage you have really is the bare minimum and you are paying extremely high percentages of the medical costs.

Simply put there is no easy way to avoid the soaring cost of medical insurance. As an individual you must pay up for health insurance if you can at all, because the costs of not doing so are even more harmful. Let’s hope that healthcare reform becomes a real goal of congress and government as a whole, and soon. It may take some compromising on both sides of the aisle, but Americans need action and they need it taken quickly.

How to Save Money on Health Insurance

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

If you are like millions of Americans that are looking for a way to save on your health insurance, here are a few things to consider.

Which plan works best for you?

PPO (Preferred provider organizations) or POS (Point of service) plans would be the better option for older people or those with chronic conditions since you get unrestricted access to specialists. HMO (Health maintenance organizations) is less flexible and suitable for young and healthy.

How can you get the most from your medical insurance?

If you are insured by the company you work for, don’t simply stick to a plan for years. Review your insurance plan yearly and opt for something that covers your changing needs. Some companies offer insurance from several providers. You can choose the one that works best for you. Review the co-payments, deductibles and benefits that each provider has to offer. Before you choose a plan, check whether the hospital, lab and doctor of your preference are included under the network covered by your insurance. Ask yourself if the benefits your insurance plan provides are really of use for you. The more the benefits offered, the higher the premium will be so if you are healthy and sure that you wont need much coverage in the coming year, choose a plan that requires more out-of-pocket payments. On the other hand, if you have children or plan to start a family or if you have health problems, choose a plan with higher premiums and lower co-payments.

Another option is to go in for private insurance.  According to Insurance.com, getting private insurance can drastically reduce the amount you spend on insurance, provided that you are healthy and do not need to visit the doctor often. At the same time, private insurance can be very expensive for those with pre-existing conditions. Choosing the best insurance provider is a tedious task that requires plenty of time and effort since regulations vary from state to state.

Are recommended services really necessary?

If you feel that a certain test or scan is unnecessary, do not hesitate to ask your doctor. By doing so, you can save money on your insurance. Do some research as to which tests and preventive measures are really required. For instance, while cancer screening and immunizations are a must for every individual, plastic surgery is something you can skip. Visit ahrq.gov/consumer/index.html to get an idea of the screens and tests recommended by the government and how often they need to be performed.

Why not go generic?

The generic versions of several drugs are much more inexpensive compared to the brand name version. If your doctor prescribes a drug for you, enquire if the generic version is available. By going in for generic drugs, you can save on pharmaceutical bills. This is the only way one can negotiate pharmaceutical costs. If you are already using medication, make sure that the drug you use is present in your insurance provider’s formulary. You can visit needymeds.org to see if you qualify for medication assistance.

Get fit and cut costs

There is a lot you can do to keep your self fit and healthy, thereby eliminating frequent hospital visits. For instance, you can lose weight, exercise or quit smoking. Keep immunizations current. Visit the web site of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to get an idea of immunization schedule for adults.

Several companies offer financial incentives in the form of contributions towards health care accounts or premiums if an employee participates in their wellness initiatives. If your company has such initiative, go ahead and participate. Not only it will save money on insurance, it will also help you to keep yourself healthy.

Out-of-network Insurance Scam

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

When patients go out of their health plan network, their plan is supposed to pay 70 percent of the doctor’s visit cost. It appears that insurance companies pay 70 percent of what it determines is the “usual, customary and reasonable” cost for the procedure or doctor’s visit in question. Insurance companies determine that cost themselves, and there’s no proper oversight of how they do it.

United Health Group is in hot water in this issue. It was allegedly manipulating claims data so that the “usual, customary and reasonable” costs they used were lower than they should have been, leaving patients to pay more. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo are on the case.

I wonder how long these insurance companies were cheating the patients if the charges are true.

Source: Senators examining insurance companies’ out-of-network practices

Low Insurance IQ

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

According to the survey by National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Americans are lacking basic knowledge about Insurance. Honestly, I am surprised. I thought that most Americans know these things. Apparently not.

“Now more than ever, consumers need to be mindful of the impact their insurance decisions can have on their financial future,” said Terri Vaughan, NAIC’s chief executive. “By arming themselves with the facts — and improving their insurance IQ — consumers can make sure they are adequately protected, without paying more than they should for that coverage.”

More details about this survey and the results are here. NAIC sponsored InsureUOnline.org also provides useful resources to understand more about insurance policies and the ways to save on insurance.

Don’t skimp on health insurance during recession

Friday, February 20th, 2009

There are a whole lot of areas where cut backs are absolutely necessary during a recession. While I certainly encourage you to do some price comparison shopping and figure out which health care plan is the most affordable and fits your needs the best, I strongly advise you not to make large cutbacks on your health insurance.

Health insurance is something that we hope we don’t have to use very often, but it is something that is absolutely necessary when any health issues arise. The talk around the economy is of how prices have risen to astronomical levels for many services, and I know first hand that medical costs are at the very top of this list. The cost of a simple procedure without insurance is absolutely outrageous and it could drain a middle class family’s bank account in no time. It isn’t just procedures or office visits that are so expensive either, it is also prescription medication. There is no such thing as cheap medicine now without health insurance. Even with health insurance the cost of many of these vitally important medications is astonishing, and without health insurance the cost is often $5 a pill or more for some of the newest medications. While you and your family members may be completely healthy now, you shouldn’t count on that always being the case.

Different people need different health plans. Some who have always been extremely healthy may be able to take low premium health insurance while others that have chronic health issues may need to take the insurance with lowest deductibles. Whatever health insurance plan you and your loved ones need, please make sure you make it a top priority to keep even during the worst of the recession. Look elsewhere to cut your costs and keep the medical coverage that is best for your personal situation.

Can you keep your benefits after employer’s bankruptcy

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Today, automakers got the life line from the government. It might save them and their employees. Other companies that went bankrupt recently were not lucky. Hundreds of thousands of workers lost the jobs because the companies entered bankruptcy. What will happen to the pension, 401k and health benefits of the employees if their companies are bankrupt?

Pension plans of bankrupted companies can’t be touched by creditors by federal law. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation insures the pension plans.

401k plans are also shielded from creditors by federal law. However, there is no insurance for 401k plans. If you made some poor choices in your 401k plan of if you have invested heavily in your (bankrupted) company’s stock, your 401k will suffer.

If the company files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your health benefits will be gone immediately. You will have no health insurance coverage at that point. However, if a company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the health benefits will still continue for the employees. If health benefits are taken away from the employee, he/she should still be eligible for COBRA although the premium will be lot more expensive. If your spouse is working, it’s better to add yourself to your spouse’s health plan rather than opting for COBRA.

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