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Four steps to fight off high medical expenses

Four steps to fight off high medical expenses


When it comes to staving off skyrocketing medical costs, having insurance is only half the battle.
That's because cost-sharing — expenses you cough up in the form of deductibles, copayments and coinsurance — has been increasing in employer plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The foundation recently analyzed medical bills from large employer plans and found that nearly 1 in 5 inpatient hospital admissions include a claim from an out-of-network provider.
The cost difference can be significant when you go in-network: Doctors and facilities that are in-network have agreed with your plan to a set price for service.
Your insurer may only partially cover an out-of-network expense and leave you to pay the remainder.
Even going to an in-network facility won't necessarily keep you from encountering out-of-network costs. More than 15 percent of in-patient admissions who used an in-network facility still wound up with a claim from an out-of-network provider, Kaiser found.
Here are four tips from Carolyn McClanahan, a certified financial planner and an M.D., to help you become an empowered patient and prepare you to contest unreasonably high bills. McClanahan is director of financial planning at Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida.

1. Understand your coverage

Know what your policy covers, including the details on out-of-pocket maximums, deductibles and co-insurance.
Get familiar with your state's laws against "balance billing" — a practice in which insurers only partly cover an out-of-network cost and leave consumers to pay the remainder, which can be thousands of dollars.
More than 20 states have some kind of legislation on the books to protect consumers from balance billing, according to the Commonwealth Fund. See below.
When you are admitted to the hospital in the event of an emergency, write on all of your paperwork that you will only permit in-network care, McClanahan said. Be sure to take a photo of this document or make a copy of it.
"Once you get the bill, if they charge you for out-of-network care, you have ammunition," McClanahan said.

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