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  • New Information Blocking Rule: What You Need to Know

    Almost all of the information in your medical record is digitized in today’s world (provided your healthcare professional has converted their paper files!). But, until October 6th 2022, access to most of it was blocked. This meant that only some of your electronic health information (EHI) could be shared with you. Fortunately, with the new information blocking rule, you can now access all your EHI. Read this post to the end to learn more about the new information blocking rule and how it benefits you. First, What Is Information Blocking? Information blocking occurs when patients are prevented from accessing their EHI. The information blocking rule in the 21st Century Cures Act makes it illegal for healthcare providers to block you from accessing your medical records electronically. However, previously, the rule only applied to the data set in the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). This gave you access to your consultation notes, procedure notes, lab report narratives, imaging narrative, progress notes and discharge summary notes. But, you couldn’t access all other electronic protected health information (ePHI), including billing information. And, if you wanted access to all your health records, your provider may have charged you to print out paper records. Imagine a change in insurance requiring you to change your healthcare provider. Your previous provider wouldn’t be able to share all your records electronically. So, you’d have to pay for printed copies, which can cost a substantial amount. What’s The New Information Blocking Rule? The new information blocking rule, which took effect on October 6th, has expanded from just a couple of electronic health information datasets to ALL electronic protected health information. This means that patients can now ask for ALL their medical records to be shared with them electronically. That is, your healthcare provider is mandated to give you access to every piece of information, email exchanges, and billing records that pertain to your health. The rule also covers granting access to other health providers that you authorize. And besides healthcare providers, the rule also applies to health IT developers, and health information exchanges and networks. Benefits of The New Information Blocking Rule The update to the new information blocking rule, from some to all electronic health information, offers several benefits outlined below. You’ll have free and quick access to your data. No more printing fees and delays. With the new information blocking rule, you won’t have to wait weeks for your medical records to be processed (nor spend time on follow up and re-requests!). Neither will you have to pay an exorbitant fee to print thousands of medical record pages. (For paper print fees, click here for Illinois’ fee schedule.) All your information can be shared electronically with you or anyone else you authorize. You can gain access quickly with a single click on your provider’s patient portal, or they can send it to your email in pdf or doc formats in minutes. You can share your data with other care providers. The new information blocking rule improves interoperability. Your former healthcare provider must share all your health information with your new provider. So, you won’t have to waste money and time repeating tests and procedures you’ve already done. It would also make it easier for your new provider to serve you better. For instance, they won’t have to read through a thousand pages of paper records to find relevant information. With your data in electronic format, they can easily do a keyword search to find the data they need. Quality care coordination directly contributes to a better experience for you and can dramatically improve outcomes while reducing costs. You’ll have access to improved healthcare services. With the ability to access your complete medical records and improved interoperability, you can shop for better healthcare. For instance, you’ll be able to share your electronic health record with other care providers for a second opinion. Also, you’ll be able to apply to clinical trials and other digital health services that will benefit you. You won’t have to rely on your provider to get you in. You can find studies online and submit the required data yourself. How to Request Your Full Medical Records from Your Provider The method of providing access to all your electronic health information (EHI) depends on your healthcare provider. Nevertheless, here are three ways to request your complete medical records to be shared with you electronically. 1. Gain Access on Your Online Patient Portal If your healthcare provider has an online patient portal, you may not need to put in an official application to get your complete medical records. Some providers store all EHI on their online portal, from lab results to billing records. So, you can simply login in and download the information you need. And, if your provider does not store everything on their platform, you may find an online form to fill out to request your records. 2. Call Your Provider to Find Out the Process If you can’t find where to access or request for all your medical records on your provider’s website or patient portal, you can call to find out the process. You’ll be directed to the right page or email address to submit your request. Some providers may require you to visit in person to submit a request for all your health information. 3. Send a Request Email to Your Provider If you’re making the request via email, ensure that you indicate that you want your full record in electronic format. Your healthcare provider should send you a signature notification form describing potential security risks of sending information via the internet especially when sent unencrypted (not secure). Also, you may request that the records be shared directly with another provider’s electronic health record (EHR) system. When Can Your Electronic Health Information Request be Blocked? Despite the new rule, there are exceptions to the information blocking rule. In some conditions, healthcare providers are permitted to block you from accessing your electronic health information (EHI). For instance, if some of your records are in paper format and others in electronic format, the health provider is only required to provide access to those in electronic format. You’ll have to get the rest in paper format. Also, your healthcare provider is allowed to block you from accessing parts of your EHI to prevent harm. These include behavioral information and psychographic notes that may harm you or others. Steps to Submit an Information Blocking Claim If you have proof your healthcare provider is blocking you from accessing your electronic health information, there are two options to submit a complaint: ONC Portal (online submission steps below) or OIG Hotline. Step #1: Visit the ONC Portal to Submit Your Claim The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology is responsible for receiving information blocking claims. After setting up an account, you log on to the portal, click on ‘Report Information Blocking’ to access the claim form. Step #2: Fill Out the Information Blocking Claim Form Fill out your first name, last name and email address. Then, provide a detailed description of the information blocking event. You can also attach files and screenshots to support your claim. If you’d like to remain anonymous, check the ‘Yes’ box to the anonymity question, and you won’t have to fill in identifying information. Step #3: Create and Submit Your Claim Form After completing the form, click on ‘Create’ to submit your claim form. Once submitted, your claim will go through a review process. If your claim is against a healthcare provider, the details will be shared with the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), which is responsible for investigating information blocking claims. Bottom Line With the new information blocking rule, there’ll be no more printing fees and delays (unless your provider has paper records). You can now request and gain access to all your electronic protected health information. And, your healthcare provider is mandated to share your medical records electronically with you and whoever you authorize.

  • Maintaining Good Health to Challenge Medical Bill Balances

    If you’re planning to challenge medical bill balances and you’re not in good health, chances are you’ll throw in the towel and then lose the dispute. Why? Resolving medical bill balance disputes takes time and requires energy. Hence, maintaining good health is crucial to maintain the strength required to fight surprise medical bills. Otherwise, you’ll get frustrated and give up midway. In this article, you’ll learn how to maintain good health to challenge medical bill balances and win. Let’s dive in! First, What Are The Difficulties of Challenging Your Medical Bill Balances? Medical bill balance disputes can be physically and mentally draining. If you’re not prepared to overcome the difficulties, you’ll give up in frustration (which the insurance companies are hoping for!). Here are some difficulties you can expect to encounter when you challenge medical bill balances. Understanding Your Medical Bill Balance Medical bills typically contain codes and vague descriptions of the services rendered. Or, they may be presented as one single line item with a large cost attached. So, the first difficulty when you receive a surprise bill would be figuring out what exactly the bill is for and why it’s so high. To understand your medical bill balance, you’ll have to dig for information on what the codes mean. Some websites provide the meaning of these codes for a fee or may offer a limited number of searches per day after you register on their site. Examples are the AMA website and FairHealth Consumer website. Looking up the codes may help determine why your medical bill balance is outrageous. The medical service you received might have been miscoded, resulting in a huge bill. For instance, you may find that you were charged for an MRI when you only had a chest x-ray done. And, because your insurance company doesn’t cover MRIs, you end up receiving an outrageous bill. Staying on the Phone Forever Naturally, you would want to call your medical provider or insurer to challenge your medical bill balance. But, nothing will prepare you for the number of frustrating hours you would spend on the phone. You’ll be put on hold, listening to music that is annoying, for more than half the time you would spend on the phone. And, when you finally get connected to a human being, your call might be transferred to another department. And, you start all over. Again. There’s also the horror of your call getting disconnected accidentally after waiting a long time to get connected or when speaking to an agent. Then, you would have to start the process all over again. Going Back and Forth You’ll essentially be stuck between your provider and insurer when you challenge medical bill balances. Your health provider would ask you to reach out to your insurer because they refused to cover your bill. And the insurance company would direct you back to your health provider for miscoding, sending the bill late, or some other reason. In the end, you’ll be stuck in the middle with the bill, going back and forth between your provider and the insurer, trying to get the bill resolved. Following Up Constantly So, your insurer or provider’s office has promised to look into your medical bill balance dispute. Congratulations! But you’ll need to follow up a million and one times. This takes so much time and requires energy. What’s more, the next time you call to follow up, you’d likely be connected to a different customer service agent. This isn’t necessarily bad if the previous agent made a detailed note of your case. Otherwise, you may have to start explaining the issue from scratch. How Maintaining Good Health Helps Challenge Medical Bill Balances Before you challenge your medical bill balance, here are reasons maintaining good health can help you win your medical bill balance dispute. 1. You’ll Have the Energy to Pursue Your Claim Challenging a medical bill balance is stressful. You need to be in good health to overcome the difficulties you’ll encounter and win your medical bill balance dispute. Imagine being ill and spending hours trying to connect to your insurer. Then, just after explaining the situation to the customer service agent, the call disconnects, and you have to begin again. You’ll likely give up in frustration. Maintaining good health will give you the energy to stay on the phone and follow up no matter how long it takes to resolve your dispute. And, gathering and submitting medical documentation won’t be a demanding chore. Beyond physical health, you also need good mental health. Having to go back and forth with your provider and insurer and pushing back against obstacles to resolve the medical bill balance dispute can be mentally draining. 2. You’ll Have Less Medical Conditions and Bills Maintaining good health help prevent chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, stroke, cancers, kidney diseases, arthritis, and more. These conditions require continual medical intervention, and are more costly to treat, according to the University of Michigan researchers. So, maintaining good health can save you from huge medical debt. However, beyond that, the medical bill balance dispute process can worsen your condition if you’re not in good health and lead to the accumulation of even more debt. Say, you’re challenging a medical bill balance, and you have hypertension. If you don’t maintain your health, you might get a stroke during the process. Then, you’ll have to seek medical treatment for that also, and add more debt to your balance. Furthermore, some chronic conditions may make it impossible for you to work, thereby preventing you from paying your medical debt. For instance, if your medical provider offers you a payment plan to pay the bill over time, you’ll be unable to offset the bill because you’re down with a chronic condition. Tips To Maintain Good Health To Challenge Medical Bill Balances Maintaining good health requires a lifestyle change. Here are some tips to help you maintain good health to enable you to win your medical bill balance dispute. Add Energy-boosting Foods to Your Diet You need to fuel your brain and body to get the energy to challenge your dispute. Add whole grains, nuts, proteins and high-fiber vegetables to your diets to maintain the high energy level you’ll need. These energy-boosting foods have a low glycemic index. Unlike foods containing simple sugars and refined starch, they don’t spike your blood sugar rapidly. Instead, they increase your blood sugar more slowly, thereby providing you with more long-lasting energy. Also, avoid grabbing an energy drink when you feel tired during the process. Instead, snack on energy-boosting fruits like bananas and strawberries as you conduct research or stay on hold on the phone. Engage in Physical Activities You don’t have to go to the gym. You can incorporate physical activities into your daily routine to help you maintain good health. For instance, after spending hours on the phone with the CS agent, you can take a walk around your neighborhood to clear your head. If you need to submit documentation to your health provider physically, take the stairs. Besides improving your physical health, these activities will also boost your mood, so you don’t feel too depressed by the challenges of your medical bill balance dispute. Go for Routine Checkups Even if you don’t feel sick, don’t miss your routine checkup. Regular doctor visits can save you from chronic conditions that result in huge medical debt. For instance, your provider can catch your high blood pressure before you develop a stroke. Also, ensure you take your medication as prescribed. Don’t stop taking your prescription as soon as you start feeling better. This is common with antibiotics prescription and can cause serious health problems like antibiotic resistance. Control Your Stress Level You’ll surely be stressed when you challenge your medical bill balance. Regardless, try to control the stress. Do what you can when you can, and don’t dwell on the situation. Talking to your friend or relative about how the dispute is going can help relieve the stress. You can also engage in relaxing activities such as taking a bath after a stressful day trying to resolve your medical bill balance. In Conclusion Maintaining good health can help you challenge medical bill balances and win. You’ll have the energy to chase your claim and won’t accumulate more debt from additional ill-health. If you need professional help with your non-hospital medical bill balance dispute, reach out to Medical Bill & Claim Resolution for a consult.

  • Screening vs. Diagnostic: What Situation Types Results in a Bill?

    Although screening tests and diagnostic tests may both result in disease detection, they aren’t the same type of test. And, when it comes to billing, diagnostic tests are done at a cost, while screening tests typically should not result in a bill. However, you may still get a bill when you undergo a screening test in some situations. Continue reading to learn more about screening vs. diagnostic tests and the situation types that results in a bill. Screening Tests Vs. Diagnostic Tests Screening tests are preventative care that enables the early detection and treatment of diseases. They are performed on seemingly healthy individuals to determine their relative risk of developing a health condition. Diagnostic tests are done to confirm if a patient has a disease. They are usually conducted on symptomatic or ill individuals to provide a diagnosis for their ailments. Diagnostic tests are also conducted when a screening test is positive. The Cost of Screening Tests Under the ACA Under the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), healthcare providers must deliver preventative services, including screening tests, at zero cost to individuals. This means that insurers are required to cover the screening tests without sharing costs with the patient. However, the screening test must be done in-network. So, you should ensure that the doctors and other healthcare providers involved in conducting your screening test are in your insurance plan network. Recently, the ACA updated the list of preventative services healthcare providers must offer individuals at zero cost. The preventative services you can access under the ACA include HIV and cancer screening, suicide risk screening for teenagers, autism screening for children, and more. Check the full list of covered preventative services. Why Screening Tests Are Done at Zero Cost Screening tests are preventative care that helps save lives. According to a new report by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), hundreds of millions of Americans now have access to preventative care services and receive screening tests for free. However, since screening tests are conducted on healthy individuals, not many people would want to pay to have them done. Hence, screening tests are conducted free of charge under the ACA to encourage more people to do them. A benefit of prevention medicine is mitigating future healthcare costs. Do you know the US spends more on healthcare than any other country? And, one in 10 people have medical debt? Adopting a prevention mindset vs treating symptoms can reduce monetary burden, mental health angst and pave the road for preparation should a screening indicate further investigation. How Screening Tests Can Become Diagnostic Tests Despite screening tests being available at zero costs, you may still get a surprise bill in the mail after the procedure. This is because a screening test can become a diagnostic test under certain conditions. For instance, a routine colonoscopy may end up surprising a patient with an unexpected bill in the thousands, especially when you went in for a screening vs. diagnostic exam. What causes this to happen? The test could be coded and billed as a diagnostic test rather than a screening because a polyp was found during the screening test and removed. However, under the ACA, the US Department of Health and Human Services provided further interpretation that polyp removal is an integral part of the screening process and patients with private insurance should not be charged. To add further confusion, this depends on your plan. Read more here. Hence, a screening test may be regarded as a diagnostic test when another procedure is done during the screening, such as removing a polyp during a colorectal screening, and it also depends on your insurance plan. Also, having a family history of the disease or getting screened outside the recommended period may result in the test being coded as diagnostic. 4 Tips to Prevent Getting a Surprise Bill After a Screening Test Apply these tips before undergoing a screening test to ensure the procedure doesn’t get recoded into a diagnostic test. Reach out to your insurer to confirm that the procedure will be covered without sharing the cost. Also, confirm that all the healthcare professionals involved in the procedure, including the anesthesiologist, are in your network. Reach out to your insurer to determine when a screening may result in the patient receiving a bill. Ask questions. Healthcare facilities should provide information on how a screening test can change to a diagnostic test during the informed consent process. So, make sure to ask if the information isn’t provided. Don’t sign any document in a rush. Request for them ahead of time and have them reviewed before signing. For instance, the fine print may state situations in which a screening procedure would be considered a diagnostic test. By signing the document, you are agreeing to pay the balance not otherwise covered. If you have already received an unexpected bill for a screening test you thought would result in zero out of pocket, do your research before submitting payment – because it’s usually in the details. Remember, a screening vs. diagnostic bill can be tricky to decipher. Should you require assistance, contact an advocate in your area or reach out to Medical Bill & Claim Resolution for a consult.

  • Credit Reporting Agencies Action Starting July 1, 2022: Alleviating Patient Medical Debt Burden

    Beyond the financial challenge, the burden of unpaid medical debt affects other aspects of life. Overdue medical debts can be recorded on consumers’ credit reports, hurting credit scores, and thereby preventing access to employment opportunities, mortgages, and even renting an apartment. Medical debt can affect you even when you have insurance and a means to pay additional expenses. In fact, an industry survey across age groups shows millennials have the highest medical debt at 52%. Back in March, the top three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) announced some changes to help consumers ease the burden of medical debt. These changes are set to remove about 70% of medical collection debt from consumer credit reports. Starting July 1, 2022, one of the changes will get rid of your paid medical collection debt from your credit report right away. Previously, the debt may remain on your credit report for up to 7 years, even though it’s been paid. But now, the credit report agencies say they will no longer include it in their credit reports. Also, the agencies plan to extend the time it takes for unpaid debts to show up on credit reports from 6 months to 12 months. This will give consumers more time to sort out their unpaid debt with their healthcare provider or insurer. Additionally, overdue medical debt below $500 will be removed from consumer credit reports, starting in 2023. Other Actions That Will Lessen The Burden of Medical Debt The Biden-Harris administration also announced plans to guide agencies to take actions that will lessen the burden of medical debt on Americans. Actions to be taken by some agencies include: 1. Investigation of billing practices The HHS has been directed to evaluate healthcare providers billing practices and their effect on access and affordability of care. The organization will look over various data, including medical bill collection practices and financial assistance, from thousands of providers and recommend better policies for the public. Also, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) plans to investigate and hold accountable debt collectors who violate consumers’ rights. Back in January, the CFPB released a bulletin reminding providers and insurers of the No Surprise Act and its commitment to preventing unlawful medical debt collection and reporting. 2. No medical debt in USDA loan repayment calculations The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will no longer consider medical debt when determining whether borrowers can repay their loans. This means that medical debt will not be included in the borrower repayment calculation. So, more Americans will be able to meet the USDA rural housing service loan requirements and can get a mortgage. 3. Removal of medical debt from VA Care With the new rule established by the Department of Veteran Affairs, veterans’ medical debt from VA care will no longer be reported. This step was taken to help veterans improve their creditworthiness. And, it will enable more veterans to get a mortgage, secure a job, and generally live better. Unfortunately, these new rules are not retroactive so if you already have medical debt or have had a negative impact from this, the updates won't help with past debt. But, you can do your part should another medical event land you with a bigger balance than you can afford. More healthcare providers than ever are open to helping you figure out a solution that resolves an unpaid balance for both of you. While some debate that medical debt shouldn’t be included at all on credit reports, this update will provide additional time for you to resolve or figure out how to pay an outstanding medical bill balance. Should you find you do owe the balance and elect a repayment option with your medical provider, be sure you maintain the agreed upon payment schedule so the balance doesn’t revert back to delinquent status. As well, double check your credit report to ascertain if any balances were incorrectly reported and or the status should be updated.

  • What is a POLST? When Should I Have It Available?

    Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a medical order for people likely to have a life-threatening medical emergency, such as older people and individuals with critical chronic conditions. This medical order helps them decide and specify the type of medical intervention they want to receive in a medical emergency. It is especially beneficial for people experiencing end-of-life conditions, but who don’t want aggressive medical treatment. Difference Between POLST and Advance Directive Although similar, the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is different from an advance medical directive in several ways. For one, the POLST is a portable medical order. This means that emergency responders and care providers can access it anytime and anywhere and follow its directives, even outside the healthcare facility. This is unlike an advance directive, which emergency providers may not be aware of. For instance, when an emergency provider responds to an emergency outside the facility, they will do all it takes to save the individual, even if s/he has an advance directive. But, with a POLST, they will be aware of the patient’s wishes and follow them. Also, while any adult, including healthy adults, can get an advance directive, the POLST is specifically for critically ill and older people who are likely to experience a life-threatening emergency. However, the POLST doesn’t replace an advance directive, and you can have them both. When to Consider Getting a POLST As previously mentioned, POLST is for people who are seriously ill or elderly and nearing the end of life. So, you should consider getting a POLST medical order if you or your loved one are in this category and you don’t want aggressive emergency care such as CPR, feeding tubes, etc. How to Get and Use a POLST If you think you or your loved one needs a POLST order, here are the steps to get and use one. Step #1: Have a conversation with your medical provider about getting a POLST. This will help you understand your medical options during an emergency and decide which directives to include in your POLST order. You may include a health surrogate, family member, and or healthcare agent in the discussion, so they are aware of your wishes. Step#2: Fill out the POLST form to tell emergency care providers and responders what to do when you experience a critical medical emergency. Sign it, and have your physician sign it too, as it isn’t valid until both signatures are on the form. A valid form also requires a witness's signature. Step #3: The original POLST form should be with you at all times. This will enable emergency care responders to be aware of your medical care wishes during an emergency, especially outside the health facility. Post on your refrigerator or other highly visible area so that when emergency personnel arrives, it will be seen. An executed POLST on any colored paper is legal and valid as are photocopies and faxed forms. In summary, POLST gives you control to establish the medical care you want to receive during an emergency, and you should have one as part of your end-of-life care plans. Every State in the US has its own POLST form and process. You can check your State’s requirements here. The Illinois Department of Public Health is currently revising the State’s POLST form following the new legislation that took effect on January 1, 2022. However, the changes are yet to be finalized, and you can still get POLST with the old forms. You can contact MBCR if you need any help getting a POLST medical order.

  • How To Reduce Your Medical Bills By Improving Your Lifestyle Choices

    When you think of how to pay less medical bills, health insurance comes to mind. Being insured is great, but what if you could reduce or prevent medical bills by changing your lifestyle? Most huge medical bills are for chronic health conditions. These are diseases that require ongoing medical attention, such as diabetes, heart diseases, and cancers. Thus, they require costly tests and treatment plans over a long period. Western medicine generally treats symptoms - not root causes. One way to reduce the number of medical bills you receive is to create and implement smart lifestyle habits. The below is presented for informational purposes only, not to treat, diagnosis or recommend specific steps that may interfere with your current health treatment. Always seek the advice of your professional healthcare team. 5 Tips To Improve Your Health & Reduce Your Medical Bills Improving your health equals less chance of coming down with a health condition that will cost you a lot in medical bills and out of pocket expense. Not to mention the headache and time spent in deciphering the jargon. Here are some tips to help. 1. Exercise Regularly A lack of physical activity contributes to obesity, which is a risk factor for other chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. By incorporating about 150 minutes a week in physical movement, you can help yourself maintain a healthy body weight. If you find it hard to exercise regularly, try incorporating some simple short bursts then build up. Before you know it, you'll look forward to moving and seek ways to achieve more physical activity into your day. For instance, take a walk if your destination is just a few blocks away, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and use items around your home such as canned goods to incorporate light weight training. 2. Eat Healthy No doubt, red meat, carbs and fried foods are delicious. But these foods cause inflammation in the body, which leads to chronic health conditions. Plus you'll internally age faster! Reduce your intake or research a meal plan that works for your body type. By approaching in this manner, you're more likely to stick with it. Eat more foods high in antioxidants, such as leafy vegetables and nuts, as they have anti-inflammatory properties. Replace snacking on pastries and fizzy drinks with eating fruits and drinking water. Also, avoid foods with unhealthy fats that increase your cholesterol level and waistline. Soon, you'll start to feel more energetic which in turn can help you increase your physical activity. 3. Keep Stress Levels Low Stress is one of the major causes of ill-health. Physically, it can cause inflammation that result in chronic conditions. Mentally or emotionally, anxiety and depression. These consequences of stress require costly treatment to manage. Thus, reducing stress can help your overall state of mind, and your wallet. If you can't change the situation causing you stress, incorporate controlling how you react to it. You can practice yoga, deep breathing, and meditation to de-stress. There are myriads of ways to beat a stressful situation with practice and a different mindset. 4. Get Enough Quality Sleep Just because you want to achieve your life goals doesn't mean you should sleep for four hours only. If you want to remain healthy and focused on your goals, strive for at least six to eight hours of quality sleep daily. Setting a bedtime routine greatly helps to promote restful relaxation. And, adequate sleep helps improve your mood, reduces stress and boosts your immune system, all of which keep you in good health. Also, it isn't just about the number of hours you sleep. Ensure you sleep on a regular schedule and in a restful environment. 5. Take Dietary Supplements Dietary supplements contain vitamins and minerals that give your body the necessary nutrient boost to stay healthy. Some contain herbal ingredients such as garlic, curcumin, and ginger which possess anti-inflammatory properties. However, ensure you speak to your health provider before taking any supplements. In Conclusion The best way to avoid medical bills is not to get sick. Unfortunately, as humans, we cannot avoid falling ill. An occasional trip to a healthcare facility can't be prevented, even just for a well exam. However, we can reduce our risks of chronic health conditions that are costly to treat by simply changing our lifestyle. If you already have a massive medical bill, either due to your health condition or a billing error, you can contact us at MBCR today for what to do next!

  • How Does an ER Charge You?

    You can rack up a huge medical bill just for walking into an ER and registering at the front desk. It doesn’t matter whether you were saved from the brink of death, just got your finger bandaged, or didn’t get any treatment at all. Emergency care bills are one of the most outrageous medical bills in the U.S healthcare system. ER facilities charge patients just for emergency room visits, even if no care or minimal care was provided. Hospitals claim that it’s a necessary standard charge that helps them keep their emergency room open 24/7. Unfortunately, patients are often left liable for a good portion of the bill especially when the insurance carrier deems the service as non-emergent care. While hospitals are required to post some planned in advance service standard charges online as of January 1, 2021, trips to the emergency room aren't typically included. ER facilities bill patients for medical care based on the level of emergency care received. This is classified from level 1 to 5; level 1 being routine or minor care and level 5 being complex care for life-threatening conditions. However, this emergency care classification is subjective, depending on how the facility codes the level of care. A Health Care Cost Institute study found that hospitals use the most severe and higher-priced classification to code ER visit billings. This means that minor care can be incorrectly classified as complex care. Say you get a small cut on your finger, which should be classified at a relatively low level of care but could be wrongly coded at a higher level of emergency care. What does this mean for you? An outrageous bill. Tips to Prevent Excessive ER Medical Bills With the No Surprises Bill taking effect on January 1, 2022, you may get a modicum of protection against outrageous emergency care bills. However, here are some tips to prevent getting slammed with an excessive ER bill. 1. Think Twice Before Visiting the ER Take a personal assessment of your health condition. Do you really have to consult a healthcare professional immediately - at the emergency room? If your condition is relatively low level, you should consider waiting until you get an appointment with your primary care physician or consider a retail health clinic or walk-in doctor's office. 2. Consider Urgent Care Facilities Urgent care is not the same as the emergency room, and it’s relatively cheaper. Better if you can find one that’s not attached to a hospital. What’s more, you’re likely to get cost effective treatment in urgent care facilities for minor conditions compared to the ER. 3. Ask Questions When you visit the ER, make sure you ask questions about the facility’s standard fee before completing the paperwork and signing off for financial responsibility. Also, in non-life-threatening situations, you should ask your ER if you can put off tests until you can see your primary care physician. ER Charges Bottom Line ER facilities can charge you (excessively) just for registering to receive care. So, make sure that you need emergency care before visiting one. If you’re currently battling an outrageous ER medical bill, you can schedule an MBCR consultation to figure out your options.

  • What the No Surprises Act Means for Your Medical Bills

    Remember that time you received an unexpected medical bill in the mail? You had surgery, or maybe you had gone to the emergency room weeks before and thought your insurance would cover your bill. But, it turned out they didn’t cover it, and you’re left with an outrageous balance. Well, there’s a new legislative bill in effect: the No Surprises Act! Continue reading to learn more about the No Surprises Act and what it means for your medical bill balances. What is the No Surprises Act? The No Surprises Act, which was signed in 2020 and has taken effect on January 1, 2022, prevents some healthcare providers from sending you unexpected medical bills. This may be the entire bill due to claim denial or the balance bill after insurance payment. The No Surprises Act protects you from surprise bills when you receive emergency services from out-of-network facilities, non-emergency services from out-of-network providers practicing in in-network facilities, and air ambulance services. How the No Surprises Act Affects Unexpected Medical Billings So, what should you expect with the implementation of the No Surprises Act? Outlined below is what the No Surprises Act means for your medical bills. Providers Must Give You an Estimate Out- of-network providers are mandated to give you an estimate of your treatment before providing service. Hence, there would be no surprise when you get an unexpected bill. The estimate must also be made available at least 72 hours before the service is provided. This gives you time to compare prices with other providers before deciding to accept care. And the bill. Providers Must Get Consent from You Providers must get written consent from you to waive your No Surprise protection. That is, you must agree to receive balance billing or the entire bill when out-of-network. However, there are some scenarios they cannot ask you to give consent such as in an emergency. Providers Can Decline You Their Services Although the No Surprises Act protects you from unexpected medical bills, providers retain the right to decline their services to you. Say you refuse to sign a consent form waiving your No Surprises protection; the provider can decide not to provide their services to you. You May Still Get a Surprise Bill Yes, we said with the No Surprises Bill Act, unexpected bills would be a thing of the past. But the thing is, you may still get a surprise bill in the mail. This is because all of the scenarios the law covers are complex with mandates at the federal, state, and insurance plan levels. So, be cautious when signing papers to avoid accidentally signing away your No Surprises protection. If you get an unexpected bill that you think should have been covered by the No Surprises Act, you can dispute the bill. But, getting a resolution can be difficult and takes time. MBCR understands the challenges in receiving a medical bill and successfully resolving a health insurance claim issue. Learn more at

  • How to Get Financial Assistance to Squash Medical Debts

    Got a huge medical bill you’re struggling to pay? Have you tried getting your hospital to waive your bill? No? You’re not alone. Most patients don’t know that hospitals can let medical bills go by providing charity care. We’ve spoken to a lot of people with unpaid ambulance medical bills. When we asked them if they’ve completed the hospital’s financial hardship or charity application, the typical response is “I didn’t know I could” or "I didn't know it existed". Well, it may sound too good to be true, but it’s possible. And, in this post, you’ll learn all you need to know to get financial assistance for your medical debt. What Is The Financial Hardship or Charity Care Application? Non-profit hospitals must offer low-income patients financial assistance or charity care based on income. Hence, if you earn a certain percentage of the federal poverty guideline, you can apply for financial hardship or charity care. Hospitals may also offer financial discounts for uninsured or underinsured patients. Every hospital offering charity care is legally required to publicly post the information and provide patients with the information but not all do so. Steps To Get Financial Assistance: Hardship or Charity Care Here are the steps to apply for financial assistance or charity care from your hospital, which could result in you having a substantially lower or zero medical bill balance. Step #1 – Check if the hospital has a charity care policy Not all hospitals have a charity care policy, however, nonprofit hospitals must offer charity care to maintain their nonprofit status. It is then up to each hospital to determine the qualification policies. And, some hospitals with the policy don’t share the information readily. Generally, this information can be located on their website within the "Patient and Visitor" menu option. If you do not have online access, call the hospital and ask for a patient financial counselor or patient financial services department. Step #2 – Find out if you qualify and what you need to apply Medical bills financial assistance is for people who are uninsured, underinsured or earn below a particular income. The amount of assistance varies across facilities from percentage discounts to total waivers, depending on the patient’s situation. So, find out what level of assistance you’re eligible for and what you need to apply. Most hospitals will require documents to prove your inability to pay your bills, such as income tax returns, bank statements, payroll stubs, and more. Step #3 – Ensure your application gets to the hospital Depending on the hospital, you can apply for financial assistance online or by snail mail. However, you may find your hospital does not have an online application or user friendly process and you never know with traditional mail post. Therefore, the best way to ensure your application is received is to hand-deliver it to the hospital's point of contact. What If You Don’t Qualify For Charity Care? If you find that you’re not eligible for charity care based on income or insurance status, but you’re struggling to pay your medical bill, you can still apply. To improve your chances, attach a detailed financial hardship letter to your application stating why you need financial assistance for your medical debts. Since the applications aren’t reviewed by a computer algorithm but by people, your application may be approved. What If Your Medical Bill Is Already in Collections? If a collections agency has already started contacting you to pay your medical bill, you can still apply and get charity care if you are within 240 days (or eight months) since the first billing statement. Inform the collections agency of your charity care application to pause the collection process. They may ask for documented proof. And, if your bill is more than eight months, you can still give charity care a try; after all, the application wouldn’t cost you a thing. Some hospitals grant charity care for bills that have been left unpaid for years. Again, it depends on the hospital. Bottom Line Despite more than half of U.S. hospitals being non-profit, patients who qualify don’t apply for financial assistance or even ask about it because they don’t know it exists or how it works. MBCR understands the challenges in receiving a medical bill and successfully resolving a health insurance claim issue. Learn more at

  • How Do Medical Bills Affect Your Credit?

    When you get a medical bill that you can’t pay right away, the first question that comes to mind is, how in the heck am I going to pay this too? Followed by: can this medical bill hurt my credit? The short answer is, “Yes, an unpaid medical bill can affect your credit.” But don’t panic just yet. Medical bills will affect your credit only when you leave them unpaid for too long. Continue reading to find out how medical bills affect your credit and what to do to protect your credit score. How Unpaid Medical Bills Can Affect Your Credit Overall, you have 180 days before an unpaid medical bill shows up on your credit report after it is turned over to a collection agency. Some medical providers will have non-paid accounts turned over to a collection agency and may or may not approve reporting to a credit bureau. Other healthcare businesses sell their unpaid debt to a collection agency at which time the collection agency determines if the account will be reported to the credit bureau. Prior to this, however, the majority of medical practices send patients up to three billing statements and call as part of their attempt to resolve the balance. So you have ample time to settle your medical bill before it affects your credit. However, if you’re still unable to do so and the bill is listed on your credit report, it wouldn’t cause your credit score to plummet. Depending on the lender's scoring model, some treat medical bills less harshly meaning less of an impact on your credit score. Nevertheless, the minimal damage can still affect your life negatively. What To Do To Prevent Medical Bills From Hurting Your Credit According to The Commonwealth Fund’s recent survey, about 79 million people in the U.S. have medical debt. So, you’re not alone. Don’t panic pay with your high-interest credit card yet. Take the time to decide on your next steps - but not too much time. Do NOT ignore the medical bill and assume you can pay whenever it’s convenient for you. Or assume your insurance just hasn't taken care of it yet. The best thing to do to prevent your medical bills from damaging your credit is to negotiate a convenient payment plan. Call your healthcare provider to inform them you can’t afford to pay the entire bill immediately and discuss a payment plan. You may even be able to negotiate an extended period before your bill will be sent to collections. If there’s an insurance dispute with your account, ensure that you inform your healthcare provider, so they don’t submit your bill to collections. Generally, they will provide you with X number of days to get it resolved before taking the next step. But, if the bill goes to collections and your insurance company finally pays the bill, the credit reporting agencies will remove the unpaid bill from your credit report. As a safeguard, you may also want to contact the reporting agency and submit proof of payment with a request for removal. Final Thoughts Your credit score can impact your access to much-needed loans or credit lines. So, no matter what, don’t leave your medical bills unpaid. If there’s an issue with your medical bill that’s preventing you from settling it, such as an unexpected bill or denied claim, you should consider hiring a medical billing advocate. MBCR understands the challenges in receiving a medical bill and successfully resolving a health insurance claim issue. Learn more at

  • Disadvantage of Using Credit Cards to Pay for Medical Bills

    Insurers are waiving out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and some are also waiving visit costs associated with testing. It is imperative you check with your insurance and keep abreast of state to federal changes for the exact tests or services that will be waived and through what time period. However, you could still incur substantial medical bills if you require treatment for COVID-19 so keep up to date with healthcare policy design surrounding out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19, as it is rapidly evolving. In this age, many people pay for most of their purchases with their credit cards. Some also do this with their medical bills. However, the question is: is it wise to pay your medical bills for COVID-19 with your credit card? It depends. Below, are points to consider helping you decide whether you should use your credit card to pay your medical bills or not. Pros to Using your Credit Cards to Pay for Medical Bills Acceptability: Credit cards are widely accepted, and they always suffice when a service provider doesn't accept checks. It is also a great option in situations when you can't write a check or pay cash for a procedure. Convenience: Credit cards are very easy to obtain if you meet your credit requirements. It is so easy, you can get one almost immediately after applying. Interest Rates: Credit cards sometimes offer a low-interest or no-interest promotional period. It gets even better when you use one with a 0% APR period; with this, your interest does not accumulate until the APR period is over. Rewards and Perks: You can get rewards from your credit card provider when you use cards in offsetting bills. Develop Positive Payment History: Your credit card can help you develop a positive payment history credit if you make your payments on time. Cons of Using Credit Cards to Offset Medical Bills Insurance: Be sure you know exactly what your insurance covers, as getting your money back after paying with your credit card can be tedious and take very long. There's a high chance insurance coverage related to COVID-19 treatments could change, as it is a new health issue. Poor Credit Score: You can hurt your credit score badly if you default on a credit card payment for over thirty (30) days, and your provider reports the late payment to the bureau. Fortunately, health care providers cannot report your late payments for at least six months; this way, you have more time to protect your credit score. Increased Debt: Many medical debts do not carry interest. However, if you take a balance on your card and you do not have a 0% rate, you can accumulate interest when using your card to pay off medical bills. Additional Steps to Take When Paying Medical Bills Know Your Payment Options: Do not wait until there is an emergency before you know your payment options as emergencies are not the best times to make wise money decisions. Double Check Your Medical Bills: Your bills could be saddled with mistakes. So, always check to be sure you are not paying for errors or duplicate bills. Confirm Insurance Cover: Make sure your insurance covers what it should. This may take a few phone calls to your insurer if your plan policy booklet is unclear. Negotiate Your Bill: You can negotiate anything, including healthcare. You can attempt to negotiate a reduced balance with your healthcare provider using average cost estimators from your insurer or online resources. Remember, however, each circumstance is unique and yours may be more complex. Bill Payment Plans: Most likely your healthcare provider will be open to a workable payment plan. Maybe at this time you can only pay X but in 60 days you can pay more. Ask your provider to consider your circumstance while keeping in mind your physician or medical facility is also running a business. Get Home Equity Line Of Credit: Owning a home could get you a medical loan with sensible interest rates. However, you could lose your home if you do not pay back, so you may want to try getting a loan from family members or friends. File for Bankruptcy: While this might seem extreme, you can consider it when other options prove fruitless and your debt ceiling is such that you require a fresh start. Using your credit card to pay for your medical bills, including coronavirus treatment, can be a quick fix, however, it may cause additional long-lasting negative consequences. Evaluate your situation and all available options. MBCR understands the challenges in receiving a medical bill and successfully resolving a health insurance claim issue. Learn more at

  • How to Protect Your Health Information Identity

    HIPAA HIPPA secures your data that is held by a provider or health insurance firm. However, HIPAA rules do not apply if your information is shared with any organization or person not covered by HIPAA. For example, if you post your health condition information on a message board, social media, or open email -- it is not protected. NEVER post anything online that you do not want to be made public. With the plethora of social media sites and constantly changing the security setting updates, vigilance and caution is the key to prevention. Medical Identity Thieves If you have your health information stored on a computer, make sure you protect your health information identity and keep your data secure with a strong password with at least 12 characters minimum made up of numbers, symbols, capital letters, and lower-case letters. If you opt for a password manager application, be sure to fully vet it for the most robust encryption. What medical identity thieves do is try to obtain drugs, medical treatment, or even surgery by attempting to use your information. In fact, one breach can wreak havoc with stolen identities from hundreds of people. You can protect yourself from this possibility by verifying any source you decide to share data with and shredding any healthcare forms. However, if you think that your information was compromised in any way, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Social Security Number (SSN) It may sound a bit far-fetched, but the Identity Theft Resource Center says that almost 50% of identity theft originates in the healthcare sector in medical offices, hospitals, insurance carriers, diabetes supply distributors, etc. The route to your information often comes from your social security number. Be very cautious when banking, financial institutions, nonprofits, and many other companies request it. They usually do it because if you do not pay, it is easier to turn your account over to a collection agency. Beware of Phishing It might sound like a no-brainer, but never post your SSN anywhere on a social site or send it in an email. If the number is needed for 1099 purposes, for example, when an accountant might ask for it, you are better off calling and giving the number to the accountant by telephone. Also, beware of phishing. This occurs if you receive an email from someone saying they are the Social Security Administration. The subject line says something like "get protected" with an urgent call to action. The email goes on to say the government is trying to protect your personal information and if you only click this link, you will be protected. Of course, if you do, a virus is downloaded onto your computer allowing thieves to collect your personal information. MBCR understands the challenges in receiving a medical bill and successfully resolving a health insurance claim issue. Learn more at

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