medical bills http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/9956/all en-US How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock-466332486.jpg" alt="Learning how to handle a surprise medical bill" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>&quot;Have you noticed that your neck appears swollen?&quot; That's what the nurse practitioner asked about halfway through what I had assumed was a routine office visit.</p> <p>Soon after, I was swiftly catapulted into a long series of office visits that were anything but routine. There were ultrasounds, biopsies, consults with specialists, an invasive surgery, an overnight stay in the hospital, and eventually, the ok from my docs to go about living a normal life.</p> <p>That's when the medical bills started rolling in.</p> <p>Turns out I could kick thyroid cancer to the curb, but it wouldn't be cheap. Medical care is expensive, not just for me, but also for the one in four American adults under age 65 who have past-due medical bills, according to a recent study released by the Urban Institute.</p> <p>Still, knowledge is power. At least, it is according to the same Urban Institute study, which reported, &quot;Adults with greater financial knowledge are less likely to have <a href="http://www.urban.org/urban-wire/why-do-larger-share-millennials-and-gen-x-have-past-due-medical-debt-older-americans?utm_source=twitter&amp;amp;utm_campaign=organic&amp;amp;utm_medium=social&amp;amp;utm_term=millennial_genx_medical_debt&amp;amp;utm_content=urban_" target="_blank">past-due medical debt</a>.&quot;</p> <p>That's good news for Wise Bread readers, who are keenly interested in the fate of their financial futures. Even so, a surprise bill, particularly a large one, can take even the most educated saver by surprise. The silver lining here is that there are several specific steps you can take to help minimize the pain that often comes with the arrival of an unexpected medical expense. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-youre-hit-with-a-huge-medical-bill?ref=seealso" target="_blank">What to Do If You're Hit With a Huge Medical Bill</a>)</p> <h2>1. Scrutinize your bill</h2> <p>According to various sources, as many as eight in 10 medical bills contain some sort of error &mdash; sometimes even multiple errors. I'm not surprised. Mine sure did.</p> <p>When that first hospital bill arrived, it was for more than my annual deductible. A lot more. After suffering what felt like a small panic attack, I called my insurance company. As it turned out, they hadn't received a bill from the hospital. Instead, the hospital had billed me directly.</p> <p>It took a few frustrating phone calls, but the hospital ultimately fixed the mistake. Still, had the bill been for a less egregious amount, I may have overlooked the error and just paid it. I mean, how many of us scour the line items of those bills?</p> <p>Turns out, we should.</p> <p>&quot;Sometimes, insurance companies or doctors' offices make mistakes that they don't realize,&quot; says financial coach Maggie Germano. &quot;They may have simply miscoded something. It's up to you to follow up and make sure they aren't charging you when they shouldn't be.&quot;</p> <h2>2. Negotiate with your health care provider</h2> <p>Looking over an itemized hospital bill is not for the weak of heart. Mine included shocking over-the-top expenses, like $27,000 for three hours in the operating room, $15,000 for an overnight stay in a recovery room, and $108 for a single dose of calcium.</p> <p>Those inflated fees are all part of an elaborate dance between health care providers and insurance giants. Insurance companies don't often pay the amount that gets printed on those statements. Instead, they use it as a jumping off point for reimbursement negotiations. Sadly, it's those without health care coverage who often get stuck in this line of medical bill crossfire.</p> <p>&quot;Hospitals are always complaining that they're not reimbursed enough money from the health insurance companies, and therefore increase fees as high as possible,&quot; says Adria Gross, founder of MedWise Insurance Advocacy.</p> <p>Uninsured or underinsured patients typically don't have anyone behind the scenes who can negotiate those fees on their behalf. Instead, they have to advocate for themselves.</p> <p>According to money-saving expert Andrea Woroch, health care providers are not likely to negotiate costs if you have health insurance. But if you're uninsured, you may be able to talk your bill down by 10 to 20 percent. That's why it never hurts to get connected with the customer service department &mdash; no matter how long the wait or arduous the phone tree &mdash; and ask for a break. Woroch notes that some centers will even give a discount if you offer to pay in cash. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills?ref=seealso" target="_blank">7 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills</a>)</p> <h2>3. Get smart about the actual cost of your procedure</h2> <p>Still, negotiating a medical bill isn't as easy as &quot;ask and ye shall receive.&quot; It helps to come to the table prepared with &quot;the usual, reasonable, and customary charges&quot; for your particular medical procedure, says Gross. The first step is to track down the procedure code for the service you've been billed for. A quick internet search should do the trick. Then, check out an online database to start searching for the fair fee associated with your procedure. (Gross recommends <a href="https://fairhealthconsumer.org/" target="_blank">Fair Health Consumer</a> and <a href="https://healthcarebluebook.com/" target="_blank">Healthcare Bluebook</a>.)</p> <p>Gross says that finding that number &mdash; before you call &mdash; can help you determine whether you've been overbilled so you can fight to correct the charges.</p> <h2>4. Request a payment plan</h2> <p>If you still can't afford the bill, Germano suggests asking your doctor to set up a payment plan. &quot;Most medical centers just want to get paid eventually, so they should work with you to make it easier for you to pay,&quot; she says.</p> <p>The key to this strategy is figuring out how much of the bill you can afford to pay each month. You'll likely be paying it for a while, so make sure you can commit to this amount for the long-term.</p> <p>&quot;Get the agreement in writing, and make sure they send you a confirmation email or letter whenever you make a payment,&quot; warns Germano. Then, keep careful track of your payments along the way. &quot;That will prevent them from accusing you of not paying what you owe,&quot; she adds.</p> <p>It will also ensure that the bill doesn't get sent to collections, which will damage your credit score.</p> <h2>5. Plan for the future</h2> <p>Medical surprises happen, no matter how healthy you think you are. (Trust me on this one. No one was more surprised by my diagnosis than me.) Keeping a stash of cash on reserve in your Health Savings Account (HSA) or emergency savings may just save your future self from a couple of missed mortgage payments. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-an-hsa-saves-you-money?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How an HSA Saves You Money</a>)</p> <p>As Ben Franklin once wisely said, &quot;An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.&quot; That adage applies to your health, but also to what's in your pocketbook.</p> <p>Start planning now, so you'll be prepared when the unexpected strikes. And if it doesn't? Well, it never hurts to have a few extra bucks in the bank.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/alaina-tweddale">Alaina Tweddale</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan">Why I (Heart) My High Deductible Health Insurance Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-insurance-how-to-fight-back-against-4-common-claim-denials">Health Insurance: How to Fight Back Against 4 Common Claim Denials</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-simple-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-medical-records-theft">7 Simple Ways to Protect Yourself From Medical Records Theft</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills">7 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-question-you-need-to-answer-to-choose-the-best-health-care-plan">The One Question You Need to Answer to Choose the Best Health Care Plan</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Health and Beauty doctors health care health insurance medical bills negotiating payment plans surprise bills unexpected costs Fri, 05 May 2017 08:30:12 +0000 Alaina Tweddale 1938309 at http://www.wisebread.com 8 Real Life Calamities That Can Drain Your Finances (Plus How to Defend Against Them) http://www.wisebread.com/8-real-life-calamities-that-can-drain-your-finances-plus-how-to-defend-against-them <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-real-life-calamities-that-can-drain-your-finances-plus-how-to-defend-against-them" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock-515237628.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We all work hard for our money, but if we're not careful, it can be ripped right out from under us. From getting scammed on the internet, to medical emergencies, here are eight situations that can make you broke in an instant &mdash; plus a few ways to protect yourself.</p> <h2>1. Getting scammed</h2> <p>Maybe you're smarter than the average scammer, but loads of people are too trusting and naive. In fact, someone claiming to be from eBay scammed my own mom out of a few hundred dollars via email once. She thought the email was legit because at the time she was selling items on the auction site, and she assumed the request for her banking information was not only sanctioned, but part of the company's protocol.</p> <p>&quot;Scammers target seniors because they're considered wealthy, trusting, and typically unwilling to report scams,&quot; says Roger Cowen, owner of Cowen Tax Advisory Group in Hartford, Connecticut. &quot;Common scams include callers pretending to represent Medicare or the IRS to get your personal information, and fake charity workers asking for donations.&quot;</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>The best way to stave off online and phone scammers is to verify that you're dealing with a reputable organization before providing any financial information. Many institutions never send emails requesting such information, and it's a policy you should adopt for yourself &mdash; never provide bank account, Social Security, or credit card numbers over email.</p> <p>If you've received a phone call asking you to verify any financial information, double check the source before handing it over to the person on the line. Jot down their name and tell them you'll call the company back at the verified number you have in your records. Beware of fake websites as well (these links are usually embedded in scam emails) by checking the domain name to make sure it's correctly spelled. Look for <strong>https:// </strong>to precede any domain that has your financial information. The &quot;s&quot; means the site is security-fortified and usually legitimate. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-when-you-suspect-a-scam" target="_blank">What to Do When You Suspect a Scam</a>)</p> <h2>2. Tax penalties</h2> <p>Getting a bill for back taxes can be devastating. You'll not only owe whatever taxes you avoided in the past &mdash; which may be substantial if you've filed inaccurate returns for years &mdash; you may owe interest and penalties as well.</p> <p>This can happen not only to filers who outright lie in an effort to buck the system, but also to well-intentioned filers who make errors on their returns.</p> <p>In either case, you'll be required to pay up in a short period of time &mdash; or go to jail. Being broke or behind bars could be your only options.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>If your taxes are complicated, hire a reputable accountant, report your income and deductions accurately, accept your tax liability, and pay it. If it's a large sum, you may qualify for a payment plan. Moving forward, ask your accountant for estimated tax vouchers so you can pay ahead of time to lessen the burden when you receive the actual numbers in April. Otherwise, if you know you're looking at a sizable tax bill, save as much as you can so you can settle up with the IRS as soon as possible. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-easiest-way-to-avoid-a-tax-audit?ref=seealso" target="_blank">The Easiest Way to Avoid a Tax Audit</a>)</p> <h2>3. Divorce</h2> <p>Sometimes divorce is amicable, but for many people it isn't &mdash; and that usually means somebody has to pay up. This is primarily the case when one spouse earns more than the other, or if one partner is unemployed.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>If you're getting married and one of you has a noticeably higher net worth, get a prenup. Do not walk down that aisle without it. It's not the most romantic piece of paper you'll ever sign, but you'd be a fool not to. Don't let your future spouse guilt you out of the idea, either. Love is grand, but sometimes it'll take you for everything you're worth. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-money-moves-to-make-the-moment-you-decide-to-get-divorced?ref=seealso" target="_blank">5 Money Moves to Make the Moment You Decide to Get Divorced</a>)</p> <h2>4. Death</h2> <p>No, not your death. If you're not adequately prepared for the death of a partner, child, or parent, you could end up in a sticky financial situation. There may be medical expenses leading up to the death, and afterward you'll need to cover funeral expenses and settle debts on behalf of the estate.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>Life insurance is the best way to protect yourself in the event that your spouse, parent, or child dies. If you're the beneficiary, you'll receive your policy payout, which creditors typically cannot come after, to cover expenses and any debts for which you may also be on the hook, like a mortgage. Use this money to satisfy loans that the deceased may have had, especially if you've co-signed for them. If it's your spouse that has passed away, you may be losing half your household income &mdash; maybe even more than that &mdash; so it's important to use the policy money wisely. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-reasons-why-life-insurance-isnt-just-for-old-people?ref=seealso" target="_blank">5 Reasons Why Life Insurance Is for Everyone</a>)</p> <h2>5. Market crash</h2> <p>Many people have improved their lot in life by taking financial risks. But if you're an investor at any level, you worry about going bust. Any number of things can happen that will affect your bottom line, depending on how deep your investments go. The stock market can crash, taking your life savings with it. The real estate bubble can burst, leaving you on the hook for houses you can't sell. The worst part is there are often no warning signs. One day you're swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck, and the next day you're looking under couch cushions for loose change.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>Don't put all your eggs in one basket, don't overextend your credit, don't take on more expense than you can afford, and, above all, don't get cocky with your money. Devise a plan to weather a financial crisis so you'll be prepared well ahead of time. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-prepare-for-a-stock-market-dive?ref=seealso" target="_blank">Ways to Prepare for a Stock Market Dive</a>)</p> <h2>6. Natural disaster</h2> <p>While we can sort of predict the weather, we can't predict the outcome. Any number of things can happen to you, your home, or your personal property during a bad storm or natural disaster that may leave you strapped for cash or even facing a total rebuild.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>If you live in an area where certain calamities are possible, purchase the proper insurance. Your homeowners insurance may cover certain events, but you may require special policies for others, like floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Consider what you're at risk for and put a policy in place. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-surprising-things-your-homeowners-insurance-doesnt-cover?ref=seealso" target="_blank">9 Surprising Things Your Homeowners Insurance Doesn't Cover</a>)</p> <h2>7. Spending more than you make</h2> <p>Sometimes, your biggest financial enemy is yourself. We like our things in America, and many of us will go to great lengths to get those things &mdash; including spending more money than we have. According to NerdWallet, the average household has $134,643 in debt. Households that carry credit card debt pay about $1,300 a year in interest alone on balances that average $16,748. These statistics represent an 11 percent debt increase over the past decade. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fastest-way-to-pay-off-10000-in-credit-card-debt?ref=seealso" target="_blank">The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt</a>)</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>Find ways to make more money or live on less (or both). There are many ways you can introduce a second source of income to your household, like <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-11-best-websites-for-renting-your-extra-space" target="_blank">renting out your extra space</a>, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-earn-extra-money-driving-for-uber-or-lyft" target="_blank">driving for ride-sharing operations</a>, or pet sitting. But if you don't want to work constantly, consider cutting back on your overall expenses. You don't need everything you see, and the faster you recognize that the better off your bank account will be. Plus, you might even be happier as a result.</p> <h2>8. Medical emergency</h2> <p>American health care is in flux right now, which means that you have to be extra vigilant in making sure you're covered. Just one trip to the hospital can set you back financially for years if you're not prepared, perhaps even more if you require long-term care.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>Cover yourself. You may have to bite the bullet on the premium, but at least you're insured. You can go to the doctor or hospital when you need to, and your care will (hopefully) be covered to an affordable extent. Not having insurance, on the other hand, may very well be a death sentence &mdash; or at least you'll wish it were when you get the bill in full.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-real-life-calamities-that-can-drain-your-finances-plus-how-to-defend-against-them">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-protect-elderly-loved-ones-from-financial-scams">How to Protect Elderly Loved Ones From Financial Scams</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-fair-way-to-split-up-your-familys-estate">The Fair Way to Split Up Your Family&#039;s Estate</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-when-you-suspect-a-scam">What to Do When You Suspect a Scam</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-when-youve-blown-your-budget-for-the-month">What to Do When You&#039;ve Blown Your Budget for the Month</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-spot-a-credit-repair-scam">How to Spot a Credit Repair Scam</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance audits death disasters divorce emergencies fraud going broke life insurance market crash medical bills overspending scams Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:00:09 +0000 Mikey Rox 1931272 at http://www.wisebread.com Still Without Health Insurance? Here’s How Much the Penalties Will Cost You http://www.wisebread.com/still-without-health-insurance-here-s-how-much-the-penalties-will-cost-you <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/still-without-health-insurance-here-s-how-much-the-penalties-will-cost-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/piggy_bank_medical_74187691.jpg" alt="Here&#039;s what it will cost you to live without health insurance" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Health insurance is something we all need. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense at times, not being prepared for a medical disaster can completely devastate your finances. In fact, being plagued by enormous medical bills is the number one cause of bankruptcy filings. There are financial, medical, and psychological costs associated with having no health insurance. Here are just a few:</p> <h2>Steep Penalties</h2> <p>If you <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-when-you-should-switch-to-your-partners-health-insurance" target="_blank">don't have health insurance</a>, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dictates that you pay a fee or penalty called the &quot;individual shared responsibility payment.&quot; Any Americans who fail to have <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/fees/plans-that-count-as-coverage/">minimum essential coverage</a> will be charged this penalty.</p> <p>The penalty is <a href="http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-individual-mandate/">calculated in two ways</a>, and you will pay whichever of the figures is higher: It amounts to either 2.5% of your total household adjusted gross income, or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, to a maximum of $2,085. This fee has steadily risen since 2014, so it only makes sense to remain covered. For 2017 and beyond, the percentage will remain at 2.5%, but the flat fee will be adjusted for inflation. If you have health coverage for part of the year, you will only need to pay 1/12 of the annual fee for each month you weren't insured.</p> <p>The penalty is equivalent to the national average cost for a bronze-level health plan, so you would be paying the same amount whether you have health insurance or not. Therefore, it likely won't save you any money to avoid getting health insurance.</p> <h2>What If You Don't Pay the Penalty?</h2> <p>If you don't pay the penalty during tax time, you will not be subject to jail time or any additional fines. However, the IRS can withhold money from your tax refund at the end of the year.</p> <h2>Possible Exemptions</h2> <p>There are <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/exemptions-tool/#/">certain health coverage exemptions</a> to the individual mandate charged when you file your federal tax return. For instance, certain life events or financial status may qualify you for an exemption.</p> <p>With the <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/exemptions-tool/#/results/2015/details/short-gap">short gap exemption</a>, if you have health insurance throughout the year, but neglected to have coverage for only one or two months, you may be exempt from the fee. However, even if you only missed one day of coverage in a month, the government will deem that you did not have coverage for that whole month. For instance, if you are insured all year, but didn't have coverage June 30 through July 1, the government declares that you missed two months of coverage.</p> <h2>The Statistics</h2> <p>According to the NY Times, a person between the ages of 25 and 34 has a 5% chance of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/your-money/weighing-the-risks-of-going-without-health-insurance.html?_r=2">incurring medical bills</a> of at least $27,000 and a 10% chance of incurring medical bills that exceed $13,000. For Americans under the age of 65, there is approximately a 10% chance of incurring more than $30,000 in medical bills in only one year. A very unfortunate 1% of the population incurs more than $115,000 in medical bills in a single year.</p> <p>This is a significant risk and can spell financial ruin and a potential bankruptcy filing. According to the Harvard Medical School, &quot;Unless you're a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you're one illness away from financial ruin in this country.&quot; Having health insurance will not necessarily prevent these startling statistics, but they can help protect you from certain catastrophic medical events.</p> <h2>The Psychological Aspect</h2> <p>There is a very defined psychological benefit of having health insurance. Dan Bailey, a consulting health care actuary and a fellow of the Society of Actuaries, found that people who have health insurance are more likely to pursue necessary services than those who don't have health insurance.</p> <p>You are also more likely to take advantage of preventative medical services if you have health insurance. After all, if you're already paying for it, why not take advantage of the free annual physical? In fact, most people don't have health insurance because they can't afford it, not because they think they're invincible.</p> <h2>Cost vs. Value</h2> <p>The <a href="http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/">Kaiser Family Foundation</a> found that a young man between the ages of 28 and 32 can buy a typical silver plan for about $2,800 in annual premiums. While this may end up costing you more than the penalty would, it's not by much. When you consider how much you may end up spending out-of-pocket for something as simple as a back injury, you can clearly see how imperative health insurance really is.</p> <p><em>Do you know of any other monetary or psychological costs of not having health insurance? Please share your thoughts in the comments!</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/andrea-cannon">Andrea Cannon</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/still-without-health-insurance-here-s-how-much-the-penalties-will-cost-you">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-question-you-need-to-answer-to-choose-the-best-health-care-plan">The One Question You Need to Answer to Choose the Best Health Care Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/signing-up-for-obamacare-in-2015-heres-whats-new">Signing Up for Obamacare in 2015? Here&#039;s What&#039;s New</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-insurance-how-to-fight-back-against-4-common-claim-denials">Health Insurance: How to Fight Back Against 4 Common Claim Denials</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-time-short-term-health-insurance-makes-sense">The One Time Short-Term Health Insurance Makes Sense</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Insurance affordable care act bankruptcy fees health care health insurance medical bills obamacare Mon, 11 Jul 2016 09:30:35 +0000 Andrea Cannon 1746124 at http://www.wisebread.com How an HSA Saves You Money http://www.wisebread.com/how-an-hsa-saves-you-money <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-an-hsa-saves-you-money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/doctor_money_calculator_000041327204.jpg" alt="Learning ways an HSA can save you money" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Health insurance is expensive and confusing. There are many different types of plans to choose from, each with different monthly premium costs, co-pays, deductibles, and more. To a great degree, though, the choice comes down to a high-premium/low-deductible policy or a <em>lower</em>-premium/high-deductible policy.</p> <p>Especially for those who don't tend to use a lot of medical care, high-deductible health plans (HDHP) are increasingly popular. Not only are the premiums relatively low, but the policies usually require little or no out-of-pocket costs for preventative services, and qualifying plans can be paired with a uniquely tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA).</p> <p>Let's take a closer look at that last benefit: health savings accounts.</p> <h2>HSA Rules of the Road</h2> <p>Only certain health insurance policies enable policyholders to open a health savings account. In 2016, individual plans must have an annual deductible of at least $1,300; family plans must have a deductible of at least $2,600. Holders of such individual policies may use an HSA to set aside a tax-deductible $3,350; family plan holders may save $6,750. Those age 55 or older can add another $1,000.</p> <p>Of course, opting for an even higher deductible than those minimum thresholds will lead to lower premiums. The money you save on insurance can be used to fund a health savings account.</p> <h3>What Expenses Can Be Paid With HSA Money?</h3> <p>HSA dollars may be used to cover deductibles, co-pays, prescription drugs, eye care, dental care (including braces), chiropractic treatments, counseling, and more.</p> <p>HSA money can even be used to pay your health insurance premiums if you are unemployed, including continuation coverage (COBRA) through a former employer, and a portion of the premiums for long-term care insurance.</p> <p>For a complete list qualified medical expenses, read <a href="https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf">IRS Publication 502</a>.</p> <h3>Where Can You Open an HSA?</h3> <p>A number of banks, credit unions, health insurance companies, and even some investment brokers and individual mutual funds offer health savings accounts. Your employer may have a relationship with an HSA provider, but you are not obligated to use that one.</p> <p>Look for an HSA &quot;custodian&quot; that charges minimal or no fees, has a low minimum balance requirement, provides a debit card to make it easy to tap your HSA funds, and pays a generous interest rate. Depending on your balance, you should be able to find a provider paying <em>at least 1%</em>. Some also allow you to <em>invest</em> your HSA money.</p> <p>You can shop for a provider via <a href="http://www.hsarates.com/">HSARates.com</a> and <a href="https://www.hsasearch.com/">HSA Search</a>.</p> <p>Typically, you'll find the best rates at online and out-of-state financial institutions, including credit unions &mdash; many of which make it easy to become a member via a small charitable donation.</p> <h2>Extra Advantages of an HSA</h2> <p>One significant benefit of a health savings account is that unused balances can be carried over from year to year. This differs from flexible spending accounts (FSAs). While the IRS now allows FSA holders to use up unspent funds a couple of months into a new year and even continue to carry $500 forward, HSA rules are much more lenient.</p> <p>Any HSA money left unused at the end of one year can be carried into the next. If you still have a balance after turning 65 and want to use the money for non-medical expenses, your HSA will work just like a traditional IRA. The money you contributed was tax-deductible, earnings grew on a tax-deferred basis, and now the withdrawals are taxable. On the other hand, if you continue to use your HSA funds for qualified medical expenses, the account will become something of a <em>super IRA</em>. The money went in on a tax-deductible basis, grew on a tax-free basis, and now the withdrawals are tax-free as well. It doesn't get any better than that!</p> <h2>Are You a Good Candidate for a Health Savings Account?</h2> <p>In a perfect world, you would be able to predict your family's future medical needs and choose the most cost-effective health insurance plan accordingly. Absent that, the best you can do is to use history as your guide. Does your family tend to spend a lot on health care, or a little?</p> <p>If have a track record of fairly light medical expenses, a high-deductible health plan paired with a health savings account may be right for you. An HDHP policy will keep your premiums relatively low. An HSA will enable you to build tax-advantaged savings for out-of-pocket medical expenses &mdash; whether you incur those costs this year or many years down the road.</p> <p><em>Are you taking advantage of an HSA?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/matt-bell">Matt Bell</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-an-hsa-saves-you-money">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-reasons-an-hsa-is-actually-worth-having">10 Reasons an HSA Is Actually Worth Having</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/11-surprising-things-your-hsa-will-cover">11 Surprising Things Your HSA Will Cover</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-an-hsa-could-help-your-retirement">How an HSA Could Help Your Retirement</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-places-to-check-out-medical-care-for-the-uninsured">5 Places to Check out Medical Care for the Uninsured</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance health care health savings account high deductibles HSA medical bills Mon, 28 Mar 2016 09:30:25 +0000 Matt Bell 1678005 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Things You Should Never Buy With Your Credit Card http://www.wisebread.com/5-things-you-should-never-buy-with-your-credit-card <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-things-you-should-never-buy-with-your-credit-card" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/woman_credit_card_000077026409.jpg" alt="Woman learning things she should never buy with a credit card" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>It's a big temptation: Your pockets are empty, and you desperately need that morning coffee to get through that commute. But don't do it &mdash; don't take that credit card out of your pocket. If you can't pay for that latte with cash, skip it and drink from the free coffeepot at work.</p> <p>It's easy to pay for purchases with credit cards. Maybe too easy. But there are some items that you should <em>never</em> pay for with a credit card. Why? There are always better ways to pay for these items, whether they are small, everyday purchases or big-ticket buys.</p> <p>Here are five items for which you should never rely on plastic.</p> <h2>1. Medical Bills</h2> <p>Facing a big medical bill from your doctor? Don't use your credit card to pay for it. Instead, ask your medical provider to set up an installment payment plan for you. Most medical providers will do this, and the interest rates that they charge (if any) will be lower than the rates attached to your credit card.</p> <h2>2. Income Taxes</h2> <p>If you owe taxes, you <em>do </em>have the option of paying them with your credit card. Again, though, there's a better choice. If you owe thousands of dollars to the government, contact the IRS and ask for an installment plan.</p> <p>To be eligible for such a plan, you must owe less than $50,000 and be current on your income tax filings. You must also be able to pay what you owe within 72 months.</p> <p>This isn't free, of course. The IRS will charge you interest on the money you owe and a late payment penalty, usually at 0.5% a month. But even with these fees, you're better off financially than you would be if you turned to your credit card to pay your taxes.</p> <h2>3. Unsecure Online Purchases</h2> <p>The new EMV credit cards, embedded with a computer chip, are supposed to make in-person credit card transactions safer. But these cards don't offer much protection against online credit card fraud. So be careful when you use your card to make online purchases.</p> <p>And don't ever use your card on websites that aren't secured.</p> <p>Look for &quot;https&quot; at the beginning of a site's URL in your browser. If that's not present, and the site starts instead with &quot;http&quot; (with no &quot;s&quot; at the end), don't buy from it. Such websites aren't secure, and it's far easier for criminals to steal your credit card information from them.</p> <h2>4. Big Vacations</h2> <p>We all deserve a break from the working world. An exotic vacation can provide just that. But save the money for it first.</p> <p>It's easy to rack up thousands of dollars of credit card debt on a single trip if you charge hotels, gas, meals, and visits to museums and amusement parks. Don't fall into this trap: If you save for your vacation, and stick to a planned budget while you're traveling, you'll feel much more relaxed when you return.</p> <p>If you don't, opening that huge credit card bill will make you yearn for yet another vacation.</p> <h2>5. College Tuition</h2> <p>Worried about paying for your college tuition? Join the crowd. But don't rely on your credit cards to help foot the bill.</p> <p>The interest rates on student loans are typically lower than those attached to credit cards. Many schools will even charge you an additional fee when you pay your tuition with a credit card.</p> <p>If you're worried about paying for your college education, meet with your school's' financial aid office. In addition to helping you find low-interest-rate student loans, the staffers there should be able to help you hunt for scholarships or grants that could reduce your tuition burden.</p> <p><em>What do you refuse to purchase with a credit card?</em></p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2F5-things-you-should-never-buy-with-your-credit-card&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2F5%2520Things%2520You%2520Should%2520Never%2520Buy%2520With%2520Your%2520Credit%2520Card_1.jpg&amp;description=5%20Things%20You%20Should%20Never%20Buy%20With%20Your%20Credit%20Card"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/5%20Things%20You%20Should%20Never%20Buy%20With%20Your%20Credit%20Card_1.jpg" alt="5 Things You Should Never Buy With Your Credit Card" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-things-you-should-never-buy-with-your-credit-card">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-reasons-cash-back-is-better-than-travel-rewards">6 Reasons Cash Back Is Better Than Travel Rewards</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-best-credit-cards-that-transfer-points-to-airline-miles">The Best Credit Cards that Transfer Points to Airline Miles</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-saving-too-much-money-for-a-college-fund-is-a-bad-idea">Why Saving Too Much Money for a College Fund Is a Bad Idea</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/choose-the-best-travel-rewards-credit-card-with-this-guide">Choose the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card with this Guide</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-exactly-does-travel-accident-insurance-cover-on-credit-cards">What Exactly Does Travel Accident Insurance Cover on Credit Cards?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Credit Cards Fast Food medical bills online shopping small expenses taxes travel tuition Tue, 23 Feb 2016 11:30:05 +0000 Dan Rafter 1658859 at http://www.wisebread.com 7 Penalty-Free Ways to Withdraw Money From Your Retirement Account http://www.wisebread.com/7-penalty-free-ways-to-withdraw-money-from-your-retirement-account <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-penalty-free-ways-to-withdraw-money-from-your-retirement-account" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/ira_401k_000006195210.jpg" alt="Learning ways to withdraw from your 401k without penalty" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>While it's true that 401Ks have a higher contribution limit ($18,000 in 2015) than traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs ($5,500 for most people or $6,500 if you're age 50 or older in 2015), it would be a mistake to dismiss traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs as part of your retirement strategy.</p> <p>One of the major advantages of having an IRA is that it offers much more flexibility when it comes to taking distributions before age 59 1/2. Under most circumstances, early distributions from a 401K trigger a 10% penalty fee from the IRS on top of applicable income and capital gains taxes. But IRAs are subject to far fewer limitations in many cases &mdash; often, they're free from the 10% penalty for early withdrawals.</p> <p>Here are seven circumstances under which you can withdraw money before age 59 1/2 from an IRA without triggering an IRS penalty.</p> <h2>1. Health Insurance Premiums During Unemployment</h2> <p>If you're unemployed and can't jump on somebody's health plan for coverage, you're probably going to be stressed out about meeting your monthly premiums. Fortunately, once you've been unemployed for at least 12 continuous weeks, the IRS lets you take a penalty-free early distribution from your IRA to cover your health insurance monthly premiums. (To avoid any doubts about how you're using your IRA monies, consider opening a new bank account to handle deposits from your IRA and payments to your health provider.)</p> <p>Some additional points to remember are that the IRA distributions need to take place during either the year you received the unemployment compensation or the following, and that the IRA distributions need to take place no later than 60 days after you have been reemployed.</p> <h2>2. Large Medical Bills</h2> <p>Uncle Sam also gives you a break when you use an IRA withdrawal to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses greater than 10% (or 7.5% if you or your spouse was born before January 2, 1950) of your adjusted gross income for the year of the distribution.</p> <p>While the IRS doesn't require you to itemize your deductions to take advantage of this exception, you should keep a record of all of your medical, dental, and prescription expenses that weren't reimbursed or paid by others. Remember that you can't include the cost of non-prescription drugs (except insulin) or other purchases for general health, such as vitamins, diet foods, or health club dues. Costs of cosmetic procedures aren't eligible, either.</p> <p>However, you can include 23.5 cents per mile that you drove your car for medical reasons. Refer to the Schedule A of Form 1040 to find out the entire list of eligible expenses that you can use to calculate your total unreimbursed medical expenses.</p> <h2>3. First Home Purchases</h2> <p>If the dream property for which you've been waiting so long finally becomes available and you're up to $10,000 short on the down payment, you can tap into your IRA without a penalty.</p> <p>As long as your total IRA withdrawal for first-time home buying is not greater than $10,000, you can even split your withdrawals over more than one year. Not only can you use these monies to buy your own home, but also to pay qualified costs of buying, building, or rebuilding a property. Just make sure that those qualified costs are paid within 120 days after receiving your IRA distribution.</p> <p>Attention couples: If you keep separate IRA plans, each one of you can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty to pool at total of $20,000 for a first home purchase.</p> <h2>4. Higher Education Expenses</h2> <p>Whether it is for your own education or that of your spouse, children, or grandchildren, you can take a penalty-free withdrawal from your IRA to cover qualified higher education expenses, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution.</p> <p>Other eligible education expenses include the cost of room and board for individuals that are at least half-time students and special needs services in connection with enrollment or attendance. While there is no limit to the amount of your withdrawal free from the 10% penalty tax, keep in mind that your monies may count as income for the student, and may thus impact their eligibility for financial aid.</p> <h2>5. Debts to the IRS</h2> <p>Uncle Sam wants so badly to collect on your unpaid taxes and arrears that he's willing to forego the 10% penalty tax on your IRA withdrawal. However, as in all other scenarios in this list, you do have to pay applicable income taxes, including capital gains.</p> <p>While using part of your IRA balance to pay all or part of your tax debts may not sound that great, it's better than trying to avoid a levy. Under the second scenario, you may have no bargaining power.</p> <h2>6. Rollovers From Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs</h2> <p>Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars. This means that you don't owe any taxes on withdrawals after age 59 1/2. Plus, once your Roth IRA has been open for at least five years, you can withdraw your contributions at any time without penalty (note that earnings on your contributions <em>are</em> subject to IRS penalties).</p> <p>If you were to transfer funds from your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, you would pay applicable income taxes now, but no 10% penalty tax on contributions if you wait five years to withdraw those funds from your Roth IRA. Each transfer has its own five-year waiting period and you can only do one IRA rollover per year.</p> <h2>7. Periodic Income Distributions</h2> <p>Last but not least, you can take penalty-free distributions from your IRA by taking a series of substantially equal periodic payments (SEPP) over your life expectancy or the life expectancies of you and your designated beneficiary. The IRS website offers a useful list of frequently asked questions on <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Retirement-Plans-FAQs-regarding-Substantially-Equal-Periodic-Payments">setting up a SEPP plan</a>.</p> <p>If you're planning to set up a SEPP for early retirement, remember that there maybe some financial risks involved. So, before taking your first periodic income distribution, consult your accountant or financial advisor to check your calculations. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-reasons-early-retirement-might-be-financially-risky?ref=seealso">4 Reasons Early Retirement Might Be Financially Risky</a>)</p> <h2>The Bottom Line</h2> <p>Taking an early distribution of your IRA may be a last resort to make your financial goals, such as a first home purchase, happen. As you can see from these seven examples, there are ways for you to take an early withdrawal from an IRA without the 10% tax penalty. While these strategies may not be for everybody, some of them can be true game changers. Consult IRS Publication 590-B for more details.</p> <p><em>Have you used your IRA to take early withdrawals without a penalty? Share with us how you did in the comments section.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/damian-davila">Damian Davila</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-penalty-free-ways-to-withdraw-money-from-your-retirement-account">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-penalty-free-way-to-withdraw-retirement-money-early">The Penalty-Free Way to Withdraw Retirement Money Early</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-your-taxes-will-change-when-you-retire">Here&#039;s How Your Taxes Will Change When You Retire</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-questions-to-ask-before-you-borrow-from-your-retirement-account">5 Questions to Ask Before You Borrow From Your Retirement Account</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-ways-more-money-in-retirement-might-cost-you">3 Ways More Money in Retirement Might Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/should-you-choose-a-roth-401k-or-a-regular-401k">Should You Choose a Roth 401k or a Regular 401k?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Retirement Taxes 401k borrowing health insurance home buying IRA medical bills penalties sepp Thu, 05 Nov 2015 13:15:18 +0000 Damian Davila 1605093 at http://www.wisebread.com The One Time Short-Term Health Insurance Makes Sense http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-time-short-term-health-insurance-makes-sense <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-one-time-short-term-health-insurance-makes-sense" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/doctor_healthy_heart_000030579790.jpg" alt="Learning about the one time to get short term health insurance" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Sarah O'Leary, founder and chief executive officer of national health care consumer advocacy group Exhale Healthcare Advocates, says that you should only pay for short-term health insurance one time &mdash; when you have no other options.</p> <p>&quot;We call them Swiss-cheese policies,&quot; O'Leary said. &quot;They are less expensive because you get what you are paying for. I don't recommend that anyone stay with a short-term policy for long. And I recommend that people only pay for one if they have absolutely no other choice.&quot;</p> <h2>What Is Short-Term Coverage?</h2> <p>As the name suggests, consumers aren't supposed to take out short-term health policies for a long time. The insurers that market these policies pitch them as insurance that consumers can use to bridge the gaps when, for whatever reason, they are between more traditional, long-term healthcare insurance policies.</p> <p>Insurers say that the policies are right for consumers who are between jobs or for those who missed their employers' open enrollment periods and don't want to go months without health insurance coverage. Consumers who think that COBRA temporary insurance &mdash; which allows former employees to continue their health insurance coverage after leaving their jobs &mdash; is too expensive might consider signing up for short-term health insurance, too.</p> <p>O'Leary, though, said that short-term health insurance should always be treated as a last option for consumers. COBRA insurance, if consumers can afford the higher premiums, is a better choice. And traditional long-term health insurance policies always provide better coverage.</p> <h2>Lack of Coverage</h2> <p>Short-term health insurance policies have become even less appealing under the Affordable Care Act. Since they have so many holes in coverage, they don't even meet the Affordable Care Act requirement that consumers carry adequate health insurance. Those relying on short-term health insurance policies will be subject to the same tax penalties as people who have no insurance.</p> <p>Short-term health insurance policies usually don't cover maternity care, treatment for mental illnesses, routine office visits, or preventative care. Because they don't follow the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, short-term health policies also aren't required to provide coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.</p> <p>&quot;Maternity care and delivery usually aren't included. That's a big one,&quot; O'Leary said. &quot;That can cost you up to $40,000 if you don't have the right coverage. You don't see much preventative care covered, either. The holes in these policies can add up to a lot of money.&quot;</p> <h2>The Last Resort</h2> <p>When do these policies make sense? O'Leary says that you should consider them only if you really don't have any other choices for insurance.</p> <p>&quot;These policies are better than no coverage at all,&quot; O'Leary said. &quot;And that's about it.&quot;</p> <p>Say you are switching jobs. You might sign up for a short-term health policy if you know that the gap in your insurance coverage will be especially brief. Some consumers would rather pay the lower premium prices that come with short-term insurance than the higher ones that come with COBRA, which provides far more comprehensive coverage.</p> <p>Maybe you <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes">missed the open-enrollment period</a> to sign up for a traditional health insurance policy, and you don't expect a qualifying life event in the near future that would allow you to sign up before the next open enrollment. A short-term health insurance policy will provide at least <em>some </em>coverage before that enrollment period rolls around again.</p> <p>If you have no other choice but to take out a short-term health insurance policy, make sure to ask your provider exactly what coverage you are getting for your money. You don't want to be surprised by a big medical bill when you visit your doctor.</p> <p><em>Have you ever relied on a short-term health insurance policy?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-time-short-term-health-insurance-makes-sense">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-question-you-need-to-answer-to-choose-the-best-health-care-plan">The One Question You Need to Answer to Choose the Best Health Care Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-insurance-how-to-fight-back-against-4-common-claim-denials">Health Insurance: How to Fight Back Against 4 Common Claim Denials</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/still-without-health-insurance-here-s-how-much-the-penalties-will-cost-you">Still Without Health Insurance? Here’s How Much the Penalties Will Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/women-pay-more-for-health-care-heres-how-to-pay-less">Women Pay More for Health Care — Here&#039;s How to Pay Less</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Insurance affordable care act cobra doctors health care medical bills short-term health insurance Wed, 04 Nov 2015 11:15:30 +0000 Dan Rafter 1605063 at http://www.wisebread.com Avoid These 5 Costly Health Insurance Mistakes http://www.wisebread.com/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/money_health_insurance_000014590407.jpg" alt="Learning how to avoid costly health insurance mistakes" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>How little do most consumers think about their health insurance? The 2015 Aflac Workforce Report found that 23% of adults would rather clean their toilets than research their health benefits during their employer&rsquo;s open enrollment period.</p> <p>This is too bad. Not researching their health insurance choices could cost them.</p> <p>&quot;Too many people get their health insurance from their employers and then never research it again,&quot; says Hector de la Torre, executive director of the Transamerica Center for Health Studies. &quot;They don't change their plans even as their lives change. And that can cost them a lot of money. You need to monitor your health insurance over the years. Most people don't think much about their plans until they're making a co-payment or paying a bill.&quot;</p> <p>Here are the five costliest mistakes consumers make when it comes to health insurance. If you want to keep more money in your pocket, you'll be sure to avoid them.</p> <h2>1. Not Living a Healthy Lifestyle</h2> <p>Dr. Sam Ho, chief medical officer with UnitedHealthcare, says that a growing number of employers are offering their employees <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-get-cheaper-health-insurance">discounts on health insurance</a> premiums if they pursue healthier lives. Your employer might slash $400 off your annual health care premium if you don't smoke. Others might give you a discount if you lose weight.</p> <p>Ho says this trend isn't going anywhere. A recent study by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health found that employers will spend an average of $693 per employee on wellness-based incentives in 2015, up from $430 five years ago.</p> <h2>2. Focusing on Premiums Only</h2> <p>Rebecca Palm, chief strategy officer of Boston-based healthcare expense management company CoPatient, says that too many consumers choose the health insurance option that comes with the lowest premium, whether or not it's the best plan for them and their families.</p> <p>For example, an HMO plan might come with lower premiums than a PPO program. But that doesn't mean you'll be happier with the lower-cost HMO option, Palm explained.</p> <p>&quot;Yes, HMO premiums could be lower, but do you prefer your primary care doctor directing traffic for you, or do you want to go the PPO route, where your care is more self-directed?&quot; Palm asked. &quot;With a PPO plan, you won't necessarily need to ask your primary care physician for a referral before you go to see a specialist. If you see a lot of specialists, you might be happier with the PPO choice.&quot;</p> <h2>3. Not Understanding How Their Plan Works</h2> <p>Matthew Owenby, senior vice president with insurance provider Aflac, said that too many consumers never take the time to fully learn how their health insurance plan works.</p> <p>Some consumers don't understand how a plan's co-pay system works until they actually show up at their doctor's office with the stomach flu. Others don't understand how high their deductibles are, or don't realize that when they have health insurance with a deductible of $1,000, that they'll actually need to have that money available before scheduling an expensive medical procedure.</p> <p>&quot;Most people don't spend enough time researching their options before making benefits decisions,&quot; Owenby says. &quot;The reasons for that are broad. Some people think health insurance is too complicated. Often, the enrollment period offered by employers is too short. Other times, people are feeling healthy and they don't consider health insurance to be a priority.&quot;</p> <h2>4. Going to the Emergency Room Too Frequently</h2> <p>Ho said that hospitals are increasingly investing in freestanding clinics to offer patients an alternative option to the emergency room. These options are less expensive &mdash; and offer shorter waiting times, too &mdash; than do traditional emergency rooms, Ho said.</p> <p>And that's just the beginning. Medical providers are increasingly offering telemedicine and online services for routine and preventive care, Ho said. By using these alternatives, consumers can keep their health insurance fees low.</p> <p>&quot;Emergency rooms should be reserved for true emergencies,&quot; Ho says.</p> <h2>5. Never Questioning Their Medical Bills</h2> <p>Palm said that medical providers aren't perfect; they might charge consumers for a service they never provided. But most consumers simply pay their medical bills without ever reviewing them for mistakes, Palm said.</p> <p>&quot;There is a lot of complexity with medical bills,&quot; Palm says. &quot;Consumers don't always understand what they are being billed for. They just assume that the bill is right and pay it right away. We always encourage people to make sure everything is correct on the bill and to wait to pay that bill until they are sure they are being charged correctly.&quot;</p> <p><em>Are you monitoring your health care costs carefully?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-question-you-need-to-answer-to-choose-the-best-health-care-plan">The One Question You Need to Answer to Choose the Best Health Care Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-filing-an-insurance-claim-after-a-natural-disaster">What You Need to Know About Filing an Insurance Claim After a Natural Disaster</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-long-term-care-insurance-worth-it">Is Long Term Care Insurance Worth It?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-reasons-you-should-buy-the-rental-car-insurance">6 Reasons You Should Buy the Rental Car Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-pet-health-insurance-worth-it">Is Pet Health Insurance Worth It?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Insurance copays deductibles Health healthcare medical bills Fri, 30 Oct 2015 09:15:33 +0000 Dan Rafter 1602209 at http://www.wisebread.com 7 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/money_medical_000021713271.jpg" alt="Learning how to negotiate medical bills" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When you've just had a medical procedure, you should be concentrating on recovery &mdash; not how you'll cover the bills. But what happens if you can't make a payment? While you can't make the bills disappear (unless you pay), you can probably reduce your financial burden if you know the right questions to ask. Get a leg up with these seven ways to negotiate your <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-get-cheaper-health-insurance">medical bills</a>.</p> <h2>1. Learn to Spot Common Medical Billing Errors</h2> <p>I don't want to suggest that medical bills purposefully contain errors, but sometimes honest mistakes do occur, and you need to know how to spot them.</p> <p>&quot;Every procedure performed by a health care provider has a code that allows the provider to bill your insurance company,&quot; licensed health care attorney David J. Holt explains. &quot;The issue with coding is that the average person has no idea what the codes mean.&quot;</p> <p>To catch you up to speed, Holt deciphers the definitions behind some those codes for you.</p> <h3>Upcoding</h3> <p>A medical bill that is improperly charged as a different treatment, typically a more expensive one. This is most common when a name-brand medication is billed for a generic medication.</p> <h3>Unbundling</h3> <p>Where services that should be packaged together are split and billed separately. This is common when multiple medical tests are ordered, but all relate to one medical diagnosis.</p> <h3>Duplicate Billing</h3> <p>This is more common than you would expect. This is where you are billed multiple times for the same procedure, perhaps 25 times instead of 23.</p> <h3>Mismatched Coding</h3> <p>This is when the treatment code does not match the diagnosis. In this situation, the insurance company then denies the claim. The bill is sent back to the provider and will either be corrected or sent down to you, the patient.</p> <h3>Balance Billing</h3> <p>This is the leftover balance after the insurance company pays. All of the charges may be covered under your policy, so you may not actually owe this &quot;leftover&quot; amount. Uncommon, but still happens with automated billing processes.</p> <p>In effect, you should question all charges and make sure the bill lines up with the actual treatment. It's important to be an educated patient.</p> <p>Don't be afraid to &quot;call your biller and health care provider to determine what a bill and code mean,&quot; Holt says. &quot;It is your right as a patient and health care consumer to know what you are paying for.&quot;</p> <h2>2. Go Into a Procedure Knowledgeable of Fees</h2> <p>While knowing what the codes and charges on your bills actually mean is important, so is knowing all the fees you're incurring from your procedure. Because how will you know after the fact what's legit, if you didn't know beforehand?</p> <p>There's nothing wrong with raising these question in the initial stages. Cheryl Reed, a representative for Angie's List, says the company has been advocating for years that patients need to be more empowered and bring their negotiating skills with them when they work with the medical community.</p> <p>The first step is to get the quotes in writing. &quot;If you're price shopping before you have a procedure done, get a signature, name, and title to go along with the price quoted,&quot; she says.</p> <p>You also want to cover every doctor in the room.</p> <p>&quot;When getting prices, be sure you cover all fees associated with your procedure, rather than just the surgical costs &mdash; e.g. anesthesiologist, radiologist, laboratory costs, etc.,&quot; says Reed.</p> <h2>3. Ask If You Qualify for Discounts</h2> <p>There are very few instances when I'm buying something that I don't inquire about a discount. Many times it's under-the-radar savings that I would never know about unless I speak up. Such is the case with medical bills. There are discounts available in some situations &mdash; all you've got to do is ask.</p> <p>&quot;The doctor I go to is part of a hospital network that automatically gives you 10% off if you pay the bill over the phone,&quot; says Zina Kumok, whose frugal habits helped her <a href="http://debtfreeafterthree.com/%3E.">pay off her student loans</a> in full in three years. &quot;You have to ask for the discount, but it's an easy way to save money.&quot;</p> <p>Kumok also revealed another back-door tactic to lower the cost of medical bills &mdash; something called a charity care program, and it can save you big bucks if it's available to you.</p> <p>&quot;A lot of people probably qualify for some kind of charity care program,&quot; she says. &quot;I applied for my doctor's program and found out that I'm eligible for a 30% discount after what my insurance covers. The key to saving money on medical bills is to ask. Usually providers won't tell you about any deals you can make. You have to be proactive and pursue any discounts you're eligible for.&quot;</p> <h2>4. Familiarize Yourself With Health Care Mumbo Jumbo</h2> <p>There's a lot of insider jargon associated with health care and insurance companies in general, and my opinion is that they're banking on you not knowing what much of it means, being too afraid to ask because you don't want to look uneducated, and then taking their word for it. You're doing yourself a major disservice by accepting your bills at face value. If you don't understand any part of it, question it; your wallet might thank you.</p> <p>Holt knows that this problem is all-too-common, as he's dealt with plenty of patients who have fallen victim to it.</p> <p>&quot;How many Americans read through the entire health plan contract?,&quot; he asks. &quot;Not many, and not knowing the terms may lead to thousands of dollars in medical bills because you were unaware of your coverage. Don't let this happen.&quot;</p> <p>Here are few prominent terms with which you should absolutely familiarize yourself.</p> <h3>Deductible</h3> <p>This is the amount that you pay out-of-pocket for health care before your insurance starts to pay. For example, for a $2,000 deductible, you would need to pay $2,000 before your health insurance would start covering costs.</p> <h3>Co-pay</h3> <p>This is a certain dollar amount associated with a type of care. For example, you may need to pay $25 for every visit to a doctor.</p> <h3>Co-insurance</h3> <p>This is similar to the co-pay, but in this case, there is a percentage you will pay for a certain type of care. For example, you may need to pay 30% of the cost for an outpatient surgery. Therefore, your insurance would pay the remaining 70%.</p> <h3>In Network vs. Out of Network</h3> <p>In-network refers to providers (hospitals/clinics) that are covered by your insurance and out-of-network means limited or no coverage by your insurance. Why doesn't your health insurance cover all providers? It saves them on costs. Health plans contract with specific groups of providers for group discounts. Other providers are &quot;out-of-network&quot; and have different coverage rates, or are not covered at all. You should avoid out-of-network care if possible.</p> <h2>5. Visit the Hospital's Billing Department</h2> <p>Spotted an error on your medical bill? Does something seem fishy? Don't brush it off and resolve to pay it just to save time. Because if it happens once, it's likely to happen again &mdash; and you need to nip that in the bud right away. Visit the hospital's billing department in person to sort it out.</p> <p>Another reason you may want to visit in person is if you're having a hard time paying. Maybe there are no errors on the bill, but you just can't afford the monthly payment. Instead of letting yourself go deeper into debt with late fees and other charges, have a one-on-one conversation about your financial situation with the source. You may be surprised by what you can work out.</p> <p>Chicago-based RN and patient advocate Teri Dreher advises her clients to do the same.</p> <p>&quot;My tip would be to go to the hospital's medical billing department directly if one is having a hard time paying,&quot; she says. &quot;Even if you pay a small amount every month, they will not give the payment to collections. It's the person who does not pay at all that has the case go to collections.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;If your economic situation improves after a few months, sometimes one can negotiate for a portion of the bill to be forgiven if the remainder is paid in full,&quot; Dreher says. &quot;I would also review the entire bill very carefully for accuracy as hospitals and physician offices often send out incorrect bills and charges. Accuracy is sometimes sacrificed for speed of getting the bills out.&quot;</p> <h2>6. Be Polite, But Not a Pushover</h2> <p>You know the old saying: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. That's an important rule to remember when negotiating your medical bills. Being rude will get you nowhere. Be polite but persistent, and you'll find the negotiating process much easier to manage.</p> <p>Holt offers a few suggestions on preparing for the phone call with your biller.</p> <p>&quot;Don't lose your composure on the phone; remain calm and objective,&quot; he says. &quot;The biller is taking notes on your conversation. Clearly communicate your financial situation. Say, 'I am willing to pay something, but unable to pay the entire amount. Given my financial situation, what are the discounted payment options available for me?' Offer to pay a discounted percentage of the bill up front (say $100 today for a $500 bill). Hold strong here. Request for the payment terms to be as long as possible. Generally, you will have a maximum of two years from the original billing date to pay off your bill. Request an 'interest-free payment plan' for a discounted amount of the total bill. Health care providers are getting clever about collecting debt and offering all sorts of 'low interest medical-credit' plans. In reality, this is just a credit card with the health care provider. Since when did my health care provider also become my banker? I do not feel like that is right.&quot;</p> <p>In other words, avoid the medical credit plan option at all costs; it's likely to cost you much more in the long run. Try to find a way to pay the bill down without accruing any more fees. If you can't afford the cost of the bill now, you definitely can't afford to start tacking on high interest fees to lower a monthly payment.</p> <h2>7. Call an Expert for Help</h2> <p>If you feel completely ill-prepared to negotiate your own medical bills, there are experts out there who can help you. These experts aren't free, of course, so you really need to weigh your options before calling in the big guns. Will these additional fees that the experts charge break even after the negotiations? It's hard to tell, so it's wise to proceed with caution in this area.</p> <p>Nonetheless, Reed points out that these reviewed and trusted experts can be found on Angie's List.</p> <p>&quot;Medical billing is so complex that it's spawned a new industry of professional bill reviewers, sometimes called patient advocates,&quot; she says. &quot;These specialists, who are rated on Angie's List, are trained to look for incorrect billing codes and duplicate charges. Experts say advocates can recover 17% to 49%, and charge an average contingency fee of about 30%. Some charge flat fees, as well.&quot;</p> <p><em>Do you have other suggestions on how to negotiate medical bills? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-find-the-savings-strategy-that-works-for-you">How to Find the Savings Strategy That Works For You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-ways-you-can-cut-costs-right-before-you-retire-0">6 Ways You Can Cut Costs Right Before You Retire</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-start-a-family-before-reaching-these-5-money-goals">Don&#039;t Start a Family Before Reaching These 5 Money Goals</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-simple-ways-to-split-bills-with-your-spouse">3 Simple Ways to Split Bills With Your Spouse</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance doctors errors expenses medical bills patients Sat, 27 Jun 2015 00:24:32 +0000 Mikey Rox 1464638 at http://www.wisebread.com What to Do If You're Hit With a Huge Medical Bill http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-youre-hit-with-a-huge-medical-bill <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/what-to-do-if-youre-hit-with-a-huge-medical-bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/8169560070_290a4e1fc4_b.jpg" alt="A man works on a pile of bills at a desk." title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Maybe you've had an emergency come up or you had a necessary but costly procedure, and you're pressed to pay your <a target="_blank" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiF6-0UTqtc">medical bills</a>. Don't ignore them (trust me, I've seen some horrid credit scores due to unpaid medical bills), but also don't panic. Think strategically about how you can pay off your debts &mdash; maybe you can build reward points on a credit card or use a local charity to help pay the bills.</p> <p>Because when you barely have a savings account, how are you supposed to shell out that much money immediately? And even if you do have a savings account, let's be honest &mdash; none of us are saving up for a medical expense. Savings accounts take commitment, and should only be used for fun! Below are some ways to pay off your medical debt without losing your mind. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-find-free-or-cheap-health-resources">How to Find Free&nbsp;(or Cheap) Health&nbsp;Resources</a>)</p> <h2>Before the Procedure</h2> <p>If your situation isn't an emergency, make sure you know the full story before going through with a procedure so you're not surprised when the bills start adding up.</p> <p><strong>Make Sure You Know Every Single Cost</strong></p> <p>Don't be surprised months later! Before undergoing a recent procedure, I was told the cost would be $700. Once the procedure was over, the bills started rolling in, and the actual cost was closer to $2,500. When I called to question the amount, the nurse &quot;kindly&quot; explained that I should have already been debriefed on the cost. When I insisted I hadn't been, she said, &quot;Well, that's too bad.&quot; Nothing could be done at that point. The procedure was done and the money was owed. And yes, it was too bad. Make sure you know every cost and contest anything you weren't aware of.</p> <p><strong>Do the Procedure Early in the Year</strong></p> <p>Nothing worse than having a medical expense toward the end of the year, make a payment plan to pay it off before the end of the following year, and then have your deductible roll back to zero as soon as the new year begins. If you can wait until the beginning of the next calendar year, do so and get the most out of your deductible.</p> <p><strong>Wait Until You Hear From Your Insurance Company</strong></p> <p>One time a doctor wanted to do an &quot;experimental&quot; procedure that was &quot;hard to approve through insurance.&quot; I quickly said, &quot;No way!&quot; but he tried to get them to approve it anyway. I got a denial letter in the mail, and the next day I received a call from my doctor's office to schedule the appointment. When I said the insurance company hadn't approved it, they vehemently fought me. The insurance company had approved it, according to their records. I told them I wasn't interested in the procedure and hung up the phone.</p> <h2>After You Receive the Bill(s)</h2> <p>Once you receive the bill(s) from your healthcare professional, don't panic or get angry.</p> <p><strong>Call Your Doctor</strong></p> <p>Once you receive your bill, the first thing to do is call your doctor and ask for an itemized list of what was done during a procedure or emergency room visit.</p> <p>When you receive your itemized list, whip out your explanation of benefits and compare and contrast. Sometimes, a nurse can mistakenly code something incorrectly, or other times a hospital can charge you for anesthesiology when you already have to pay an anesthesiologist separately. For clarification, call your insurance company and find out how it was coded. Note that insurance companies usually cover preventative care completely, but not generally follow-ups.</p> <p><strong>Payment Plans</strong></p> <p>Once you suss out the charges, find out if they do payment plans (and more importantly if there are any fees or interest associated with one).</p> <p>Weigh the options &mdash; sometimes it's better to pay off the debt, so you don't have to worry about it and then replenish your savings. I've run into some trouble with a medical center that was not properly communicating with their billing department. First, they didn't have a record that I had set up a payment plan, and then they didn't receive my first two payments, although they'd taken the funds out of my account. I've yelled and cried until someone resolved it (not always the best option!), but the worst part was when the woman told me I should have written down the name of the person who set up the payment plan. Nothing like fighting a lost cause.</p> <p>All this is to say, make sure that every single time you speak to someone, you write down their name, the date and time, and their call back number. Different people give you different answers.</p> <p><strong>Charge It</strong></p> <p>After my recent procedure when I received four bills instead of the promised one, and I called regarding each one to set up a payment plan, I was frustrated &mdash; most of the places I was going to have to call every single month to give them a credit card number or mail a check. So, I decided to find a credit card with 0% APR, charge it, and reap all the benefits.</p> <p>I searched around, but as an already loyal Bank of America customer I had been bombarded by their cash rewards card offers. I'm not saying this is the best option for you necessarily, so <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-credit-cards-of-2012">do your homework </a>and read all the fine print. I got a $115 bonus for my purchases; every little bit counts! Just make sure you pay attention to when your 0% APR ends; you don't want to be hit with a major bill later.</p> <p><strong>Financial Assistance</strong></p> <p>If there's nowhere to turn, try an organization that can help you in a financial crisis.</p> <p>First of all, read this informative article about <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-erase-your-medical-debt">how to erase your medical debt</a>. In other words, some hospitals offer the chance to have some or all of your medical bills erased if you make below a certain amount. Otherwise, there are plenty of organizations and charities who can help: the <a target="_blank" href="http://answers.usa.gov/system/selfservice.controller?CONFIGURATION=1000&amp;PARTITION_ID=1&amp;CMD=VIEW_ARTICLE&amp;ARTICLE_ID=11511">government</a>, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.patientadvocate.org/">Patient Advocate Foundation</a>, <a target="_blank" href="http://healthwellfoundation.org/">HealthWell Foundation</a>, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/">Catholic Charities</a> or <a target="_blank" href="http://www.panfoundation.org/">Patient Access Network</a>. If you have a particular disease, such as cancer or a chronic disease, there are separate organizations to help you. Search around and you might be able to find some relief. Also, your own hospital might have a charity organization attached to it. It doesn't hurt to ask.</p> <h2>Next Steps</h2> <p>After you've come to grips with paying your high medical bills, try to use them to your advantage.</p> <p><strong>Do Every Procedure You've Been Avoiding</strong></p> <p>Well, your deductible is paid...for this year...so immediately do anything else you've been putting off. If you've had a persistent stomach ache or heartburn, go to a gastroenterologist. If you have a rash, go to a dermatologist. If you need your wisdom teeth pulled (and they haven't been painful, just annoyingly there, like mine), make sure it's covered under medical expenses and get them yanked out! You've paid in quite a bit, so get some return on your investment into your own body.</p> <p><strong>Deduct Big Medical Expenses at Tax Time</strong></p> <p>Keep a record of everything you've paid for. If it exceeds 7.5% of your total income, you might be able to deduct it from your taxes. <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-reasons-to-hire-a-tax-professional-even-if-you-dont-mind-the-work">Consult a tax professional</a> on this one, unless you easily <a target="_blank" href="http://www.irs.gov/publications/p502/ar02.html">understand the IRS website.</a> And if that's the case, please call me; I need some tax advice for medical expenses.</p> <p><em>How have you managed (or retired!) a large medical debt?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/jennifer-holder">Jennifer Holder</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-youre-hit-with-a-huge-medical-bill">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan">Why I (Heart) My High Deductible Health Insurance Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/when-to-use-savings-to-pay-off-debt">When to Use Savings to Pay Off Debt</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-erase-your-medical-debt">How to Erase Your Medical Debt</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/your-debt-is-killing-you-heres-the-cure">Your Debt Is Killing You — Here&#039;s the Cure</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Debt Management Health and Beauty emergency medical bills medical debt Thu, 28 Feb 2013 11:24:31 +0000 Jennifer Holder 967972 at http://www.wisebread.com Best Money Tips: Shrink Your Medical Bills http://www.wisebread.com/best-money-tips-shrink-your-medical-bills <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/best-money-tips-shrink-your-medical-bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/3723723157_fcaa263d5f_z-1.jpg" alt="Shrink Your Medical Bills" title="Shrink Your Medical Bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Welcome to Wise Bread's <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/topic/best-money-tips">Best Money Tips</a> Roundup! Today we found some awesome articles on shrinking your medical bills, building a fun fund, and saving money on makeup.</p> <h2>Top 5 Articles</h2> <p><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/How-Save-Medical-Bills-11455277">9 Secrets to Shrinking Your Medical Bills</a> &mdash; Shrink your medical bills by getting a flu shot at your local health department. [SavvySugar]</p> <p><a href="http://www.moolanomy.com/5416/building-a-fun-fund-for-entertainment-and-travel-mmarquit01/">Building a &quot;Fun&quot; Fund for Entertainment and Travel</a> &mdash; Want to create a fun fund? Use income investments to fund your fun expenses! [Moolanomy]</p> <p><a href="http://moneyning.com/money-tips/how-to-save-money-on-makeup/">How to Save Money on Makeup</a> &mdash; To save money on makeup, always apply your cosmetics with a brush, not your fingers. [Money Ning]</p> <p><a href="http://freefrombroke.com/cheap-inexpensive-frugal-halloween-costume-buying-tips/">Read These 12 Tips and Save on Halloween Costumes for Your Kids</a> &mdash; Save money on Halloween costumes for your kids by finding one at your local thrift store or by reimagining a costume they already own. [Free From Broke]</p> <p><a href="http://www.bucksomeboomer.com/auto-insurance/">How to Select Auto Insurance</a> &mdash; When selecting auto insurance, make sure you look at the company's track record. [Bucksome Boomer]</p> <h2>Other Essential Reading</h2> <p><a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/how-to-find-and-attract-leads-using-linkedin">How To Find And Attract Leads Using LinkedIn</a> &mdash; Attract leads on LinkedIn by uploading a profile picture. [American Express OPEN Forum]</p> <p><a href="http://parentingsquad.com/all-aboard-amtrak-you-bet">Amtrak: Riding the Rails with Kids</a> &mdash; When riding Amtrak with kids, be sure to bring activities and snacks. [Parenting Squad]</p> <p><a href="http://notmadeofmoney.com/blog/2011/10/3-budget-items-that-you-should-evaluate-regularly.html">3 Budget Items That You Should Evaluate Regularly</a> &mdash; Make sure you evaluate your cable/television expenses on a regular basis. [Not Made Of Money]</p> <p><a href="http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2011/10/stop-telling-yourself-these-three-financial-lies.html">Stop Telling Yourself These Three Financial Lies</a> &mdash; Don't tell yourself the lie that you can't save or invest until a certain event happens. [Free Money Finance]</p> <p><a href="http://www.thousandaire.com/blog/6-quick-reasons-high-deductible-health-insurance-rocks/">6 Quick Reasons High Deductible Health Insurance Rocks!</a> &mdash; High deductible health insurance can rock because you may get lower premiums. [Thousandaire]</p> <h2>News &amp; Events</h2> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-100-most-popular-personal-finance-blogs/news/2011/09/best-of-money-carnival-125-hosted-by-everything-finance">Best of Money Carnival #125: Hosted By Everything Finance</a> &mdash; Be sure to check out the Best of Money Carnival at Everything Finance with some of the best finance articles from the last two weeks.</p> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-100-most-popular-personal-finance-blogs/news/2011/09/carnival-of-personal-finance-331-hosted-by-squirrelers">Carnival of Personal Finance #331: Hosted by Squirrelers</a> &mdash; Don't miss the Carnival of Personal Finance hosted by Squirrelers featuring some of the most interesting and informative finance articles from bloggers around the web.</p> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-100-most-popular-personal-finance-blogs/news/2011/09/carnival-of-wealth-1">Carnival of Wealth</a> &mdash; The Carnival of Wealth features some of the best articles from the previous week on topics related to wealth.</p> <p>Be sure to check out our <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-100-most-popular-personal-finance-blogs/news">News &amp; Events Calendar</a> to see all the awesome upcoming events in the personal finance world!</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-jacobs">Ashley Jacobs</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/best-money-tips-shrink-your-medical-bills">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan">Why I (Heart) My High Deductible Health Insurance Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-youre-hit-with-a-huge-medical-bill">What to Do If You&#039;re Hit With a Huge Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-pet-insurance">7 Things You Need to Know About Pet Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-cheap-ways-to-lower-your-blood-sugar">13 Natural and Easy Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Health and Beauty best money tips medical bills Mon, 17 Oct 2011 10:00:12 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 750921 at http://www.wisebread.com Why I (Heart) My High Deductible Health Insurance Plan http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/string of hearts.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="196" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">I won’t lie.<span>  </span>My romance with my health plan wasn’t love at first sight.<span>  </span>I was newly self-employed, and looking for just the right balance of benefits and affordability was nerve-racking.<span>  </span>I was lucky.<span>  </span>Many of my friends were smokers, had a long list of pre-existing conditions, or just waited until they had an illness to look into getting a self-insured plan.<span>  </span>Being a worrier, I knew that now was the time to lock in something, anything, while I was still in good health. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Low monthly payments.</strong><span>  </span>Sure I could COBRA my previous employer’s plan.<span>  </span>It was, after all, an excellent plan with all the benefits of free health visits and a low deductible.<span>  </span>It was also $1400 a month for my family.<span>  </span>I’m sure on my self-employed salary I could swing that (but also give up food and clothing for the next two years.)<span>  </span>The high deductible plan, on the other hand, came in at a nice price tag, making it much less painful when they automatically took the premiums out of my checking each month. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Basic preventative care</strong>.<span>  </span>In order to keep my monthly premium low, I needed to be sure it wasn’t loaded up with too much preventative care coverage that wasn’t subject to the deductible.<span>  </span>It was a careful balance finding a plan that gave me the basics (once a year health checks, an annual OBGYN testing, etc.) without going overboard.<span>  </span>Since I had been to the doctor exactly 1 time in 2 years, I know that the deluxe plan with 6 free visits a year (and costing about $200 more a month) was a want and not a need. I opted for the plan that gave me essential preventative care before meeting my deductible requirement, and nothing more. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>HSA eligibility.</strong><span>  </span>In reality, I don’t use my Health Savings Account much.<span>  </span>It was easy to set up, however, and it helped me to avoid taking a tax hit on extra income this year.<span>  </span>Being self-employed, it’s painful enough paying my own Social Security Tax.<span>  </span>My HSA hooked me up with a debit/credit card that I just swipe at the pharmacy or give to the billing office at the hospital.<span>  </span>(And did you know that many of the <a href="/free-shopping-at-walgreens">Walgreens Free After Rebate deals</a> are HSA eligible?<span>  </span>Double whammy.) </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Accountability</strong>.<span>  </span>Being accountable for my own healthcare costs may not seem like an advantage at first.<span>  </span>After all, when it comes to any medical expenses below my deductible, I’m the only one responsible for paying.<span>  </span>Being forced to pay these expenses, however, has made me take a good look at what I’m using my medical care for, and I’ve taken steps to reduce my cost, while making sure I take care of medical issues while they are still affordable.<span>  </span>I will be getting my flu shot.<span>  </span>I’ll eat healthy, try to maintain a healthy weight, and not overindulge in behavior that could be risky to my body or my premium rates.<span>  </span>I’ll also be mindful of DIY preventative practices like breast self-exams, using sunscreen, wearing my seatbelt at all times, and having regular dental cleanings.<span>  </span>These are things I should have been doing anyway, but with the burden of the high deductible on my back alone, I’m taking extra steps to cut costs while ensuring my insurability in the future. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Negotiated pricing.</strong><span>  </span>People often roll their eyes at the mention of a high-deductible health plan.<span>  </span>“You pay $5,000 before insurance covers anything?”<span>  </span>They don’t see the benefit of such a plan – especially since I’m not likely to use anywhere near $5,000 in medical services in a typical year.<span>  </span>Then I explain the benefits of insurance negotiated pricing.<span>  </span>I can walk into my doctor, present my card, and arrange for my insurance to be billed.<span>  </span>Yeah, I understand that eventually the bill will come back to me (without my insurance paying a dime), but the wonderful thing is that it is usually 40-60% cheaper than when I first walked in.<span>  </span>My insurance company can use their pre-contracted rates to get me savings I might not have had on my own.<span>  </span>(Note:<span>  </span>It is possible to ask your doctor to bill you at a negotiated rate, but they don’t have to.<span>  </span>By sending it through your insurance, you are guaranteed their contracted rates, plus you get an additional 30-60 days to get your finances in order until the bill comes.) </p> <p class="MsoNormal">I understand that a plan of this type isn’t for everyone.<span>  </span>My parents, who are older, have a few medical conditions, and use services more regularly, wouldn’t get as much mileage from this type of plan.<span>  </span>For someone with a pre-existing condition that needs constant treatment, this could be too pricey to justify.<span>  </span>For a typically healthy self-employed person, however, it is a good start.<span>  </span>Assuming you are in good health, and can get a deal where they lock in your rates for a given time period (2-3 years, for example), it gives you decent coverage for the near future at an affordable price. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Maybe, with the economy changing and an election on the horizon, my love affair with my health plan will fade into a fond memory.<span>  </span>But for now, I still truly (heart) my high-deductible health insurance plan.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/linsey-knerl">Linsey Knerl</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/will-a-dental-discount-plan-save-you-money">Will A Dental Discount Plan Save You Money?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-care-reform-good-for-people-like-me">Health Care Reform: Good for People Like Me</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-insurance-two-other-numbers-to-look-at">Health insurance: Two other numbers to look at</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-to-relieve-your-money-stress">10 Ways to Relieve Your Money Stress</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Budgeting Health and Beauty health insurance high-deductible medical bills Wed, 22 Oct 2008 17:51:49 +0000 Linsey Knerl 2539 at http://www.wisebread.com