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Cancer has been an eye-opening experience for me in many ways (understatement of the year). One thing that shocked me was the amount of PAPERWORK that began flooding my life, particularly paperwork related to billing.
I will admit, I did not utilize the following system right away. (I was a little preoccupied by surgery recovery and chemo.) I had no idea that a little bit of extra organization was necessary until I had a mess on my hands. So I am sharing my little method with you so that, should you ever find your mailbox flooded with medical bills, you will be able to stay on top of things from the get-go.
When I finally realized that I was producing more EOBs and medical bills than my little accordian file folder could handle, I found a binder and went crazy with the three-hole punch. I created three different sections: One for my Explanation of Benefits paperwork from our insurance company, one for the medical bills that I have paid, and one for my pre-authorizations or other important insurance paperwork. As medical bills arrive, I tuck them in the front pocket of the binder until I have time to deal with them. Medical bills do not hang out with my other mail.
When I am ready to go through the bills, I find the corresponding service date and provider information from my EOB and make sure that the amount I am being asked to pay by the medical provider matches what my insurance says is my responsibility. If they match, I highlight that amount on the EOB and the amount paid on the medical bill.
This is my visual cue that the bill has been dealt with. I also note the date and method of payment on the portion of the bill that I keep for my records. Once a bill has been paid and notated accordingly, I hole punch it and put it in the binder. It is so gratifying to snap the binder closed after paying and filing these bills!
In addition to keeping the paperwork all in one place, I have found a few other perks to keeping my medical billing organized in this way:
- LOOMING BILLS – Since I highlight my EOBs as the bills come in, I know at a glance which bills are still “out there” because they are not highlighted. For example, there was a little glitch in the coding for my mastectomy, so the hospital didn’t send me the bill for a LONG time. But I could see on my EOB what the amount would eventually be once the hospital took care of the glitch, and I was reminded every time I looked through my binder that I had this large amount looming. This helped me plan our budget accordingly.
- PAYING BILLS ONLY ONCE – Yes, you read that right. You might think “Well, duh, Stephanie. Most of us only pay our bills once.” But I will tell you something…when you are hopped up on painkillers after surgery or are in the weird chemo time warp, it is definitely possible to pay bills more than once. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I didn’t start this method of organization right away. When I sat down and highlighted the EOBs for the bills I had paid before getting organized, I realized that I had paid a bill twice. I also realized that I had overpaid on another bill (paying co-pays when I had already met my out of pocket max, as indicated on my EOB). What a mess! Things are much better now that I have my handy-dandy notebook and highlighter.
- TAXES – I have everything related to my medical bills organized and at my fingertips for tax time. I choose not to keep a running total of my expenses on a separate ledger sheet; I need the visual of the actual bill and my handwritten notes for what (and how) I paid. It will take a little bit of calculating come April, but it won’t take long since it’s all in one place. I should probably have a fourth section in my binder for other medical expenses (receipts for over-the-counter medications, etc.) but I surprisingly haven’t had too many.
So that’s my method for staying organized. It has been a huge help since the cancer-related billing paperwork continues to flood my mailbox. Although I have obviously met my out of pocket max, I am still occasionally surprised by a random bill. It has helped to have my binder all set up, ready to check my EOB to see if the insurance company says I need to pay that random bill.
Do you have a favorite method for keeping medical bills organized? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!