What is your method for paying medical bills?

I suppose everyone’s insurance company is different but with the few I’ve had I still can’t figure out a system where I can easily tell if I should pay a bill I receive in the mail or not.
It’s really a messed up system. You have minor surgery and the hospital sends the bill to both your insurance company and you. Then your insurance company may pay it, may decline it, may partially pay it, who knows?
I got one in the mail from the anethesiologist showing what they sent to the insurance company and what my portion owed was. $700. I sent them a check and a couple weeks later they send it back saying “oh, your insurance company paid it.”
I used to just throw away the bills until they showed up for the third time figuring “okay, I guess I gotta pay this one. If the insurance company hasn’t taken care of it in the past 3 months it must be mine.”
Is there a better way?

You need to be reading your bills better, I think, or else talk to your doctor’s billing people. I get a statement from my insurance company explaining what they’ve processed and paid, but it says clearly “This is not a bill” somewhere on it. The only thing I ever get from my doctor/hospital is an actual bill that says “Give us this much money by this date, please”. That’s all I ever see.

Oh yeah, I get plenty of the “This is not a bill” statements. Along with actual bills saying “pay us this much by this date” with return envelopes. I’ve paid these bills only to get them returned saying “oh, this already has been paid.”

Have you compared them against the “this is not a bill” statements? Because when I get a bill, it’s usually the exact amount of the “amount you may owe” line that appeared on my “not a bill” statements. Fortunately, my insurance company is good about paying everything they cover the first time.

Th procedure I use is to always wait for the insurance company statement called “Explanation of Benefits”. That usually breaks down how much was charged, how much they will pay for, and how much I have to pay for, with explanations. Usually I agree with their calculations, but if I don’t this is the point at which I start calling around to see about fixing mistakes.

Once the EoB is satisfactory, then I know that any bills I got from the service providers should match that, and will be correct.

I’m just going to have to go over that EOB thoroughly before paying anything.

  1. Open bill.
  2. Hand to accountant/wife.

Yeah, I always get a huge big scary bill and then I wait for a while and I get a reasonable one. Both say THIS IS A BILL YOU NEED TO PAY THIS RIGHT NOW OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO GET YOU. I just wait until I get a bill a couple of times, otherwise I’d be paying the wrong thing all the time.

Huh. I’ve never had that happen. I’ve only ever gotten the nice, reasonable, “Bend over so we can rape you, but look! We’ve already had our way with your insurance company first!” versions

Out of pocket. I have a policy but my deductible is so high my insurance company hasn’t paid a single cent since I got it 3 years ago.

All I ever seem to pay are the copays. Insurance takes care of the rest.

I pay the bill that says that insurance has paid their portion. It is usually the second or they they send. The first one is usually the total cost minus the insurance payment which takes a month for mine to go through.

If the appointment was with a doctor who bulk bills, the receptionist swipes my Medicare card and the full payment goes directly from Medicare to the doctor.

If the appointment was with a doctor where my insurance doesn’t fully cover the cost, the receptionist swipes my health fund card and the partial payment goes directly from the health fund to the doctor. I then swipe my own debit card and the remainder of the payment goes directly fro my bank account to the doctor.

I wait at least three months from the time of service before I start paying any medical bills for it. I wait because I have seen my insurance company change its mind and pay for additional portions of the bill even after I receive my Explanation of Benefits.

Insurance is so crazy that I still end up getting refunds for stuff I overpaid. The worst example? I went to urgent care a year ago. On my insurance card, it says that the co-pay for urgent care is $100, which I paid at the time of the visit. Almost one year later, I got a refund check for $90. Turns out my insurance belatedly decided that my urgent care visit could count as primary care, which has only a $10 copay. It’s incomprehensible.

Yes, there is that.

When my son was born in December last year, I of course added him to my health insurance right away. However, it took some time for the red tape to go all the way through. So his first medical bills (and there were a lot during his first few weeks) were all rejected because he was not shown as a covered dependent on my account. Once the bureaucracy had finally added him, all those claims had to be submitted again, resulting in a delay of about a month.

The doctors I see now require that the copayments be paid at the time of the appointment. I always get a statement from my insurance company a few weeks afterward showing what they paid and what I owe, which is the amount of the copayment. If I have any tests or other procedures done, the clinic sends me a bill which shows the total cost, what they’re expecting to receive from my insurance, and the balance due; the insurance company sends me a matching statement. If for some reason there’s a discrepancy between the two, I’ll get a follow-up bill later.

The only time I ever had a problem was when I had an insurance company that was not paying the providers timely, usually claiming that they weren’t receiving the proper paperwork from the providers. Eventually the state insurance board investigated the company; I received a letter from them verifying that I was not responsible for the insurance portion of the bills, and that any attempt to collect it from me should be referred to them.

I pay in full, either right after my office visit or when I receive the bill. No insurance.

I am with you. I get a torrent of mail/ emails from doc and insurance company that are confusing. They appear to change their mind from week to week how they are going to bill or cover something. I go back to the doc and they say “Your insurance should be covering this in this way according to how that we billed them.” The insurance counters with “this is why we are paying only this percentage of this thing.” Then I get more e-mails and letters that say that it was covered at a different percentage and I owe a different amount. Sometimes it is the opposite, I talk to the insurance company first and then I have to convince the doc biller to stop asking me for so much money because the insurance is going to cover it. I just wait for the second or third bill and if it seems fair I pay them.

I keep an insurance claim spreadsheet with a tab for each family member. When I get either a bill or an explanation of benefits, I enter the date, service, and provider on a line. If I have the EOB, I enter the total charge, the amount the insurance paid, and then how much is patient responsibility. I don’t pay a bill until the EOB and the doctor bill agree. When I pay it, I mark that it’s paid so I don’t pay a duplicate bill.

It’s probably a little over the top, but I’m a cancer patient and my 18 month old son has a chronic condition, so we have a lot of doctor appointments. It pays for me to keep track.

This just came up. I got a $2500 bill for an MRI I got earlier this month and a $380 bill for a radiologist to read said MRI just the other day. But the hospital bill also listed my insurance company and said, “You don’t need to do anything unless this is wrong.” So this is the scary pre-insurance bill. Why they can’t just send a statement, or better yet, not send one at all until after the insurance company pays up, I don’t know.

I’m still nervous about the after insurance bill, but I’ll deal with that when it happens.