Life has its ways of surprising us, just like an unexpected and overwhelming medical bill. Instead of letting the shock completely take you over, we sit and chat with Dr. Virgie Bright Ellington, who has a personal mission of helping people understand complex medical procedures, avoid financial devastation from medical bills, and encourage effective communication with medical facilities and insurance companies.
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Dr. Virgie Bright Ellington is an internal medicine physician and medical billing expert. A dedicated patient advocate, Dr. Virgie practiced more than 20 years in primary care and psychiatric settings and as a health insurance executive. She now helps patients understand complex medical procedures, communicate effectively with their healthcare providers, and avoid financial devastation from crushing medical bills through her “What Your Doctor Wants You to Know” series.
Handling Surprise Charges on Bills
There are 3 steps to handle these surprise charges: First is to call your provider and make sure to get an itemized bill or the real bill (with CPT Code). Second, google the code. Double-check if each of the codes matches what you received during your visit. And lastly, call back the provider service. Negotiate (Ask for an Interest-Free Payment Plan that fits your budget).
Tips for Negotiating Medical Debt
Any medical emergency is not a voluntary choice, it happens during our most vulnerable state–a reason why most of us get taken advantage of by the system and industries. Step back and focus if you’re able to get ahead of your bills. Start with calling the billing department to ask for a real bill. Make sure not to confuse your bill coming from your provider and insurance company.
Getting Medical Debt off Our Credit Report
As of July 1st, three Credit Reporting Agencies have to wipe off and not report any medical bill or debt that has been paid off. Once you pay it, it doesn’t stay on for 7 years like other consumer debt. Also, medical facilities have to now wait for 12 months instead of 6 months before reporting it for collection.
For the billing prior to the date mentioned, if they call you, you have to make sure you really owe it. Remember there is a Federal Law in effect since the late 70s called ‘Fair Debt Collection Practices Act’ wherein they have to provide documentation that you signed for the product or service. If they don’t show you the document, you don’t know it. However, if they were able to send you, instead of paying off with the debt collector, just work with a credit repair company (make sure it’s a non-profit company) or work out a payment plan, negotiate.
Sites to Find the Medicare Price
Go to healthcare.gov. It’s a site to search for the actual prices Medicare pays for certain services (CPT services).
Our Best Negotiation Experience
- Dr. Virgie: Getting a plant for free at a yard sale
- Jen: Negotiating on the first house
- Jill: Place to park RV
Bill of The Week
Thank you Dr. Virgie for sharing your bill about a surprise bill of $90k that you didn’t actually owe!
Thanks so Much for Listening!
Thanks so much for listening! Many of you know we have a private community where we do monthly money challenges and offer accountability groups. We want to congratulate one of our members for a big win:
Congrats Kori! Thanks for listening and if you want to check out our monthly challenge community head to frugalfriendspodcast.com/club to see what challenge we have coming up next.
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