Most people like getting surprised on a birthday or special occasion, but no one likes getting surprised by medical bills. Even when you think that a bill has been settled, you may find that other medical services providers were involved in your care, and each one of them may bill separately. This can lead to surprise bills weeks or months after you thought you already paid.
On top of this, Medicare may not cover your medical expenses depending on your coverage or you may not have met your deductible. Either of these scenarios may leave bills unpaid, and you might not even find out about these surprise bills until you start receiving communications about unpaid medical debt.
Thankfully, there are some things you can do to reduce the potential for surprise medical bills. Below are eight tips:
1. Know Your Network
Many insurance plans have provider networks, and receiving services from a provider who is in-network can save you money. While Original Medicare is accepted by all participating Medicare providers, Medicare Advantage plans may require you to utilize in-network resources to receive the most coverage and avoid surprise bills down the road.
2. Plan for Emergencies
Although planning for an emergency may sound oxymoronic, you can plan for some medical emergencies by researching emergency services in your area. Knowing what ambulatory services are available may help you to avoid surprise bills by knowing who to request during an emergency transportation need. Of course, any medical emergency should be followed immediately by a call to 911 first and foremost. No amount of money is worth your life.
3. Know Your Coverage
It would also be a good idea to review your coverage before receiving medical services. You may think that you have coverage for a service, but when you find out you don’t, it may be too late and the bill is now due. If you’ve read over your policy and you’re unclear on any details, consult with your plan manager before receiving services when possible.
4. Shop Around
It often pays to shop around for the best price in retail, and this same tactic applies to receiving medical care. Although Medicare will not negotiate a better price with a Medicare-participating provider, Medicare Advantage plans may provide a wider network from which to choose service providers. Consider shopping around for non-emergency medical services to know your price beforehand.
5. Utilize Preventative Care Services
If you have access to preventative care, take advantage of it. Preventative care visits can reduce the potential for future medical services that may result in surprise bills. Medicare provides a number of preventative care benefits, including diagnostic testing and lab work.
6. Consider Medicare Supplement Insurance
You might also be able to save money and avoid surprise medical bills by enrolling in a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan. These plans are sometimes referred to as Medigap plans. A Medigap plan covers some expenses associated with the use of Medicare benefits, including co-pays and deductible requirements. Please not that you can not carry both a Medigap policy and a Medicare Advantage plan at the same time.
7. Talk to Your Medical Services Provider
Of course, one of the simplest ways to avoid surprise bills is to talk to your services provider. Ask questions about what services are being provided and if any other medical professionals are involved. This becomes even more important when you are receiving services from one doctor but the services are being provided in a separate facility. In these cases, things like facility fees may be charged on top of the provider’s fee.
8. Check Your Medicare Account Often
Finally, it would be wise to keep an eye on your Medicare benefits account to monitor for fraudulent activity. If someone were to steal your identity, they could potentially charge medical services to your account, or worse, they could work in concert with a medical services or equipment provider to file fraudulent claims with Medicare, ultimately leaving you with the bill. When checking your account, match up all activity you see with actual procedures and service dates you know are accurate.