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Get Organized: Manage Your Medical Bills and Doctor Visits

hand writing check Keeping your healthcare in order may leave you feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. It often involves managing medical bills, filing health insurance claims, making follow-up appointments, and keeping track of various doctor visits and contact information. Staying organized is especially complicated for people with a chronic illness or serious medical problem, but there are a few things you can do to better manage your medical expenses and organize your doctor visits.

Track Medical Expenses

Medical bills can be confusing, especially when they come from multiple doctors for multiple visits, tests, and treatments. What will your insurance company pay? What do you pay? Regardless of whether you file your own insurance claims, keeping track of the status of your medical bills will provide you with the information you need if a problem or dispute arises with your provider or insurance company.
The first step is to begin keeping a detailed log, or record, of every medical appointment or service you attend, and any prescription drug you purchase. In this record, summarize each medical appointment and include any lab work, tests, or procedures that were conducted. Keep a running log of all medical bills as you receive them. Check the bills carefully to make sure they are accurate, complete, and correspond to your original records of the care you received.
When you visit a doctor or have a medical test or procedure done, make sure you pay the correct copayment at the time of service.

File and Manage Insurance Claims

When you join a healthcare plan, get a written copy of your policy from your insurer. Make sure you fully understand your benefits, and do not hesitate to ask questions. Communicate any limitations of your plan with your healthcare providers so they can help keep your out-of-pocket costs as low as possible.
Most medical practices employ staff to process insurance paper work. Therefore, it is reasonable for you to expect your doctor’s office to file claims on your behalf. If you file your own medical claims, it’s especially important to keep a detailed record of each claim. This record can be kept on paper or in a computer spreadsheet program. It should include the appointment date, doctor’s name, amount owed, amount paid, when the insurance claim was filed, status of the claim, reimbursements received, and any other important notes.
If you have a chronic condition or serious medical problem, or if you are unable to keep up with your medical expenses for any reason, you may want to enlist help. You can hire a health insurance claims assistant who can help with filing and tracking your claims, reviewing your medical bills, appealing rejected claims, and working with your healthcare providers and insurance company to resolve disputes. Claims assistants usually charge an hourly or annual fee, which can vary widely.

Organize Doctor Visits

It is your primary care provider's job (eg, internist or family physician) to coordinate your care and keep your records well-organized. This is a good place to start. Obtain a copy of your medical records from your primary care provider and create your own health journal. In your health journal, write down the dates and other relevant information about any illnesses, injuries, hospitalizations, surgeries, or allergies you have had. In addition, include the medications you are taking and your family’s history of diseases or conditions.
Your doctor can tell you when and how often you need health check-ups, including screening tests, and any future treatments. Record this information in a multi-year calendar. In the calendar, write down all medical appointments you have and reminders about when to schedule upcoming appointments.
If your medical care is complicated or you have a large family, you may want to use software to help you. This type of system allows you to log all your family members’ medical histories, prescription details, and doctors’ appointments.
With a little trial and error, it won’t be difficult to find a system that efficiently keeps your medical bills, insurance claims, and doctor appointments organized. Keeping an accurate, ongoing log of your healthcare will save you time, money, and relieve a tremendous amount of stress, which, by the way, is good for your health.

RESOURCES

The Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals http://www.claims.org/

Medicare http://www.medicare.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Healthy Alberta http://www.healthyalberta.com/

Insurance-Canada.ca http://www.insurance-canada.ca

References

Creating a health journal. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/838.xml. Updated August 2011. Accessed August 5, 2012.

Financial management during crisis. Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/ill/financial%5Fcrisis.html. Updated May 2005. Accessed August 27, 2008.

Tracking your medical bills and health insurance claims. People Living With Cancer website. Available at: http://www.plwc.org/portal/site/PLWC/menuitem.169f5d85214941ccfd748f68ee37a01d/?vgnextoid=7cc541eca8daa010VgnVCM100000ed730ad1RCRD. Updated October 7, 2010. Accessed August 5, 2012.

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