Unforeseen expenses can take a toll on your finances. The Doctors shows you how to make the right choices now so you don't have to pay for them later.
From eating out, to e-books to cosmetic surgery, pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears reveals online secrets for saving big bucks!
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Medical Bill Mistakes
Tera, 29, recently went to the emergency room to get treatment for strep throat, but left with a bill stating that she had an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a CT scan done. "Of course, none of those procedures were performed," she says.
E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says that this is a valid complaint. "In the chaos and complexity of a hospital or emergency department, it's not uncommon to get billed for things that you didn't have done," he says.
Former criminal prosecutor and legal expert Loni Coombs says it is vital to ask for an itemized list and to check your hospital bill before paying to make sure there are no extraneous charges. Look for duplicate charges, tests that were not performed and overcharging for medications. "It's estimated that overcharges on hospital bills run up to $10 billion annually!" she says. "That means about an average of $1,300 overcharged on each hospital visit."
If you dispute charges on a medical bill, Loni says you should request an audit be conducted, then negotiate your bill. "If you don't have insurance, go into the hospital billing people and say, 'Look, I don't have insurance,' right off the bat," she says. "[Then say], 'I want the discount that hospitals usually give to Medicaid or insured patients.' You want that price."
Explain to the billing department that you want to pay the bill and would like to arrange a payment plan, and be sure to get all negotiations in writing.
"[Overcharging] is not something that the hospitals are doing intentionally," plastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon says. "I think it's important to make that point. But mistakes do happen. Just like you would look at the bill you get at the restaurant, you need to look at [the hospital] bill, too."
Dr. Travis says that you shouldn't let the cost of health care ever stop you from going to the emergency room for a major health problem. "Whether you have insurance or not, you need to have a plan in place," he says. "If you are terrified, if you are worried about a true problem, the emergency department is still a safety net in this country. If you're worried you're having a heart attack, come in. We don't care if you can't pay, you're going to get taken care of."
OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson explains that negotiating bills does not have to end at the hospital; it can be done at doctor's offices, too. "I'll have patients who will lose their insurance or don't have insurance anymore for whatever reason, and it's time for their yearly [exam], and we'll talk to them about discounted prices," she says. "Especially if you've been with a doctor for a long time, you can actually negotiate the price. You can actually work with them. We try to work with you because we want you to stay healthy."
Are you guilty of going to the store for one item, and leaving with a lot more? The Doctors share their tips to control impulse buys:
• Shop with Cash: This will make you more aware of your spending, because it feels more "real" than swiping a credit card.
• Shop on Sale: You will save money on items you want. But be careful not to go overboard on sale items, as the costs can add up.
• Shop with a Friend: Bringing a pal to the store will keep you accountable. Tell him or her what you want to spend or buy, and he or she will help you resist leaving with more.
• Shop with a List: Write out a list of what you need, and stick to it!
• Shop Smartly: Ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" before putting an item in your basket.
Car accidents can be scary and expensive. Lindsay, 26, was in a fender bender four months ago, and while she, fortunately, didn't get hurt, she was shaken enough to forget to take down the other driver's insurance information. She has tried to contact him, but to no avail, and doesn't know what to do.
"You can go to small claims [court]," Loni says. "But that's work for you. You have to go prove your case, you have to get an award and then you still have to collect it from the other driver.
"It's not too late to call your insurance agent," Loni adds. "I know a lot of people think, if I don't call [my agent] right away, can I still call him later? You can. They're not going to be thrilled with you. The longer you wait, the more red flags go up in their minds as to why did you wait. But really, on the outside, you can go up to maybe a year."
Loni explains that if your insurance policy has uninsured motorist property damage coverage, it will cover the damage, and you probably won't even have to pay a deductable.
If you are in an accident, make sure to take pictures of any damage and collect contact and insurance information from the other driver.
Reading in the dark can potentially harm your vision and be a costly mistake in the long run. It can lead to blurred vision, sore eyes, headaches and back and neck aches. See a solution for when you can't turn the lights on to read!