Managing healthcare finances can be confusing and frustrating. You may find yourself receiving multiple documents in the mail for the same service. It can be difficult to keep track, and even more so when you are managing a chronic illness or serious medical condition. The tips below can help you get organized so you can avoid being overcharged and minimize stress.
- Track dates and services. This is an important first step in organization. Each time you receive medical services or pay for a prescription, make sure to note the date, exact services received (i.e. lab work, tests, x-rays, procedures) and how much you paid for a copay or prescription. This seems tedious, but will benefit you when you receive medical documents. Having a detailed record for reference can be extremely helpful should a dispute on payment arise.
- Understand what documents you’re receiving. Following any healthcare service, you receive a bill from the provider (your physician’s office) telling you how much you must pay for the visit. Next you’ll receive an explanation of benefits (EOB) from your insurance company that outlines how much of the service insurance covers versus how much you owe. It’s helpful to staple these documents together so they are in one place if you have any questions. You may receive multiple bills for one health care service, which can become confusing. If you see any differences regarding billing, don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider or your insurer.
- Determine your best format for filing medical documents. If you are a technologically savvy person, you may feel that scanning documents and filing them on your computer or laptop is most convenient. There are programs available, like Quicken Medical Expense Manager, that can help you stay organized with bills, prescriptions and medical history. However, if you’re more comfortable keeping hard copy versions, this is always a tried-and-true way to keep all the documents you need—pick a filing folder or cabinet that you can commit to maintaining. Even if you do choose to file electronically, it would be a good idea to keep documents for up to three years following care.
- Pick an organization style. A best practice in filing medical bills is by the date you received services. If you are keeping records for multiple family members, it is best to keep them separate. You can organize folders for each family member for dental care, health care and prescription coverage. In these folders, keep each medical document, from a copay or prescription receipt to a bill for services. Spreadsheets can be a helpful master reference tool. You can organize them with the headings:
- Date of health care service
- Family member name (if you have multiple people you’re tracking)
- Healthcare provider
- What you paid for—three columns: copay, coinsurance, deductible
- What insurance paid for (from the EOB document you were mailed)
- Remaining balance (this is based on taking the total bill, minus the coverage your insurance company outlined in the EOB)
- Bill from healthcare provider
- Final amount you paid your provider
- Notes regarding questions you may have, disputes you made, when you want to pay it off, etc.
- Hire a health insurance claims specialist. In instances where you may be too ill to organize your finances, these specialists can help file, track and review medical your medical bills. The specialist helps you appeal rejected claims and work with your health care provider and insurance company to settle any billing disputes.
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed with organizing medical documents, remember that it is OK to ask questions until you receive answers that make you comfortable. Getting organized is the first step to better understanding the often confusing process of healthcare.