Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting things paid for....

I am by no means an expert, however, I have learned a few things over the last 8 years.

1. Read your insurance policy or at very least your insurance certificate to see what is covered.

2. Ask for itemized bills, especially for hospitalizations.

3. Read through the bills that come. I was just sent a bill for a $30 for an appointment with a specialist. I had paid the co-pay when we were in the office. With this office, if I had paid it again I would never see the money again.

4. Know your state laws regarding coverage.
IL recently passed a bill requiring amino acid based formulas to be covered by insurance. Our insurance was denying Talli's formula. I sent in an appeal with a copy of the law and Press Release by a sponsoring organization. Usually, once a year I have to send in the same information, but it is now covered.

5. Find out why something is not being covered.
I went round and round about getting some medication covered right after Talli turned 2 years old. I was told that since she is 2 she no longer could take the name brand liquid form of the medication, she had to take a pill. This was after hours of being on the phone with various people. I informed them that she had a feeding tube and they were paying for those supplies every month. I got a big, "Ohhhhh" and "we are a different department, so don't know about tubes". Every once in a while I get a denial and then make sure the pharmacists puts in the notes that she has a tube.

6. DON'T pay that bill if you have Medicaid.
In most locals it is not legal for a medical provider to collect from a Medicaid recipient.

7. Talk to your provider if you are having trouble paying
We have negociated not paying co-pays and several thousand off a surgeon's bill by asking. Many hospitals and medical providers will work with you if you are having trouble paying. Not all doctors are like Dr. Pedro Jose Greer or Dr. Holmes Morton, but there are some out there.

8. Talk to the provider if they are having trouble getting paid
Keep the communication open with the provider, so they are getting paid in a timely manner. Bring your insurance card with you, call the insurance company to get denied claims paid. Your provider will be happy to get paid and in a timely manner.
I noted to our pediatrician when we changed insurance companies that his negociated in-network rate was a lot higher. He commented on how much he liked the plan that we had, that it paid the second highest amount, but the company paid him 30-45 days sooner than the other plan that paid him more.
Did he open up on New Year's Eve or stay open later a different day to see my sick child because he loves us oh so much or because he knows we respect him and his time? I don't know, but I like to make sure he is well paid and in a timely manner.

9. Talk to other parents
Yes, most of us meet with other special needs families and complain and compare notes. But do you ask: "How much was that x?" "What insurance do you have?" "How do you pay for all of the copays on meds and visits?"
Ask, talk, and help one another.
My husband was moved over to a contractor at his job 3 years ago and we went on COBRA. It was over 16% of his gross monthly income. I asked my good friend whose husband was unemployed. "Well, didn't you know there is this program that will pay for your family's premium if your costs are so high for a family member on Medicaid?" Ah, well no!! Our 2 case managers for other programs who had the application never told us about it. We applied and.... they paid our premiums back to the application date. I send in proof of payment and EOBs and we get reimbursed with a check sent via certified mail.

10. Search out organization there to help
Does your disease organization help with bills?
Ask your disease organization if they know of local or national resources specific to your disorder.
Is there a local support group meeting?
Find out if your child qualifies for mandated programs like Early Intervention.
Support and utilize groups like
Take advantage of conferences supported by disease organizations, EI and other groups. Here in IL, StarNet and the ARC will help to pay for travel expenses for conferences and often hold free meetings as well.

11. Contact the manufacturer
Whether it is a DME manufacturer or a drug company, many have programs to help those in need. For those with Propionic Acidemia, most are on specialized formula for life. Most of the manufacturers have programs to help those who can not afford treatment. The same goes for drug companies, whether it is an orphan drug like Carnitor, or a major drug company processing IVIG, they will help those needing treatment. When our feeding pump breaks (I have 9 pumps in Talli's room, one of which is working), I contact the DME provider, but also my local sales rep. Oh, Patrick, such a wonderful man, who will overnight me a pump that works; he sends a nice Christmas card as well.

12. Talk to the discharge planner & social worker at the hospital
Everytime you are at the hospital talk to them. Let them know your needs. Unfortunately, once you are discharged you are often forgotten, but they may have resources that you do not know of.

13. Just shop around
Yes, I have gotten supplies on both ebay & amazon. My first feeding pump purchase on ebay was fully reimbursed by our health insurance company. $161 vs $2500, someone actually did the math and realized the deal. This insurer highly suggested people shop around and negociate. Dh also happened to work for the company and I was on the phone with the claims rep almost daily, but I don't think that swayed the decision as they also denied plenty of claims. Even if they didn't reimburse me, 20% coinsurance on $2500 = $500, so super good deal for me either way. My last pump purchase was $37.50, including shipping.

Don't do things that are illegal. I have paid for compounded Rxs that would have been a lot cheaper if I got them from Canada.

14. Use the supplies at the hospital
Don't use your own stock, use what the hospital has. If they do not have a needed supply talk with them about getting it. I have had charge nurses send people out to get Pampers because Talli couldn't use Huggies.

15. Know your costs
Know what your co-pays are, your co-insurance, Max out-of-pocket, etc.
My insurer has a nice tool regarding Rxs on their website. I can find out the drug costs on all of our family's medications if I pick them up at Pharmacy X or get them mail order. It also states the limit on the number of doses for the Rx. So, I learned that it is cheaper for us to get 3+ medications a month from Dominicks' ($4/month) or Target's ($4/month or $10/3 months)discount drug programs than have them billed through my insurance.

16. Know your pharmacist
I love our pharmacy! I can bike to it when the weather is good. The pharmacy tech knows who I am and gathers all of the family's medications when he sees me coming. A few weeks ago he didn't grab one for one the boys, but he rarely gets an Rx. If insurance is denying something, they will usually give me the Rx or at least a week's worth to hold us over until things are straightened out. If something is not in stock they will ask me if 1. I can wait a day or two to get it in 2. if I want it transfered to a different pharmacy AND they will call to see if it is stock there 3. they will call the pharmacy down the street and if it is in, the pharmacy tech will go get a supply to then fill my Rx.
Really, I just love them!
This saves us how?? If we are not skipping meds because they are being denied for some reason or they are not in stock won't our overall health costs go down.

A friend's pharmacist calls her every month to come pick up her supply. I haven't been able to get it so that all of the medications are refillable on the same day.

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