Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How medical bill advocates can slash your costs. Also in the news: How two-factor authentication protects your online info, how investing apps can foil financial planning, and four credit card trends for 2017.

How Medical Bill Advocates Can Slash Your Costs
An advocate will go to bat to reduce your medical costs.

How Two-Factor Authentication Protects Your Online Info
Taking the important steps to protect your online information.

Investing apps can foil financial planning
Trusting your intuitions.

4 credit card trends for 2017 and what they mean for you
The good news and the bad news.

Q&A: How to negotiate the medical bill maze in search of a better deal

Dear Liz: My husband and I have run into some serious medical bills recently. We have insurance, but one provider is out of network with a huge deductible and low payout, while another claim was flat-out denied. We’re looking at around $16,000 in bills, assuming nothing else is denied. What can we do to get these bills lowered?

Answer: Act fast, negotiate hard and don’t pay the “sticker price” for healthcare if you can possibly avoid it.

Start by reviewing your bills for errors such as duplicate charges, fees for services you didn’t receive and charges that seem excessive. A medical billing advocate may spot more subtle overcharges, such as separate, higher fees for procedures that should have been billed together as one bundle. The National Assn. of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants and the Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals can offer referrals.

You may be able to resolve the errors with a call to your insurer, but you’ll still want to ask how to file a formal appeal so you can challenge the claim denial.

Look for other ways to reduce the bills. Some medical providers have charity programs that may help, and they aren’t just for low-income people: Partial relief may be available for those earning up to 400% of the poverty level for their areas.

Even if you don’t qualify, don’t assume that the numbers on your bills are what you actually have to pay. As you know from previous medical bills, the amounts providers charge bear little resemblance to the amounts they’re willing to accept from insurers. Ask to be charged the same amount that the provider would accept from Medicare, or from the largest insurer in its network.

If you can pay your bill all at once, ask for another discount for paying in cash. If you can’t pay, ask for a no-interest payment plan. Providers may push you to pay the bill with a credit card, but resist doing so unless you get a significant discount and can pay off the bill quickly.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

medical concept -  stethoscope over the dollar billsToday’s top story: How to estimate your major medical costs. Also in the news: Financial planning for the child-free, steps to take before buying a car, and hacks to winterize your home and cut your heating bills.

How to Predict the Size of Your Next Major Medical Bill
Doing your research can save you from sticker shock.

No Kids? You’re Not Off the Hook for Financial Planning
Steps to take if you’re child-free.

Financial steps to take before buying a car
Prepare yourself for the tricks of the dealership.

Filed A Federal Tax Extension? 7 Money Must-Dos Before October 15
Tick tock…

13 Hacks to Winterize Your Home – and Trim Your Heating Bill
Winter is coming…and not just to Westeros.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Medical expenses and bankruptcyToday’s top story: Should you pay your medical bills with a credit card? Also in the news: How to avoid grad school debt, getting your bank account back in black, and should colleges be held partly responsible for student loan defaults?

Should You Ever Pay Your Medical Bills With a Credit Card?
Putting co-pays on credit cards.

Grad-School Debt Is Growing. Here’s How To Avoid It
Will your graduate degree pay off in the long run?

Is Your Bank Account in the Red? Here’s What to Do Now
How to get back in black.

Should Colleges Pay for Student Loan Defaults?
Are they partly responsible?

5 Ways to Turn Inertia Into Financial Momentum
Time to get moving.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to negotiate your medical bills. Also in the news: How to file a financial aid appeal, gifts to set graduates off on the right financial foot, and ways to maximize Social Security benefits.

7 Tips for Negotiating Medical Bills
You don’t have to pay $7.00 for that aspirin.

How To File A Financial Aid Appeal
Don’t take no for an answer.

5 Gifts to Set Graduates Off on the Right Financial Foot
It’s graduation gift season!

3 Ways to Maximize Social Security Benefits
Getting the most from your earnings.

How to Get Back on Track with Retirement Savings
Making up for lost time.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

847_interestrates1Today’s top story: The importance of understanding interest rates. Also in the news: Protecting your identity while shopping online, the pros and cons of retirement annuities, and what you should ask before paying your medical bills.

Misunderstood Money Math: Why Interest Matters More Than You Think
Understanding the complicated world of interest rates.

8 Ways to Protect Your Identity While Online Shopping
While you’re shopping for deals, hackers are shopping for you.

Who Benefits From Retirement Annuities
The pros and cons of a retirement annuity.

6 Questions You Should Ask Before Paying Any Medical Bill
Analyze every single penny.

The Right Way to Tap Your IRA in Retirement
RMDs can trip you up.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailThe best college savings plan, why credit card companies want to take back your reward points, and the money lessons hidden in your favorite TV shows.

What’s best for college saving: ESA or 529?
Choosing the right college savings plan.

Five Ways Your Can Lose Your Credit Card Rewards
Credit card companies would love nothing more than to snatch your rewards back.

Tips to Negotiate Your Medical Bills
Carefully scrutinizing your medical bills could save you money.

Five Wealth-Building Tips Most People Overlook Five Wealth-Building Tips Most People Overlook
Looking for wealth in all the wrong places.

11 Money Lessons From Breaking Bad, Modern Family, And Other Emmy Favorites
What would Walter White do?

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Doctor feesNegotiating medical bills, why a financial power of attorney is a must, and the pros and cons of “pocket listings”.

Is It Ever Too Late to Negotiate a Medical Bill?
How soon do you need to question that eight dollar aspirin?

Why You Need a Financial Power of Attorney
Preparing for the unexpected is a necessity.

Poll: Just 32% of Americans Keep a Household Budget
Which percentage do you fall in to?

How to Pay Less for High-End Homeowners Insurance
High-End home insurance doesn’t need to break the bank.

Should You Sell a House Under the Radar?
Is the privacy worth the price?

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Flying Piggy BankHow to get the most out of your summer vacation, protecting yourself from medical identity theft, correcting financial myths and how to start saving for retirement.

3 Ways to Maximize Your Frequent Flier Miles This Summer

While holiday blackouts can make redeeming frequent flier miles difficult during the summer, there are still good deals to be had if you know where to look.

How to Protect Yourself from Fraud at the Hospital

Identity thieves are targeting victims at their most vulnerable. Find out what you can do to protect yourself.

Want More Time Off? Some Employers Let You Buy It

A novel approach to managing vacation time could allow you to purchase a day off or sell time you’re not going to use.

Financial Advisers Correct Common Personal Finance Myths

Meet the five common personal finance myths and how to avoid them.

How To Start Saving For Retirement

The good news is that it’s not too late. The bad news is that it will be if you wait any longer.

How to fight a medical collection

Dear Liz: My credit score just dropped more than 100 points within 45 days. The only thing I can think of that might have caused it is a $46 medical bill that was paid by my flexible spending account. I have a confirmation that the bill was paid, but for some reason the bill went to a collection agency. How do I get my credit score back to 828? I just recently moved and need a good credit rating for numerous reasons, especially purchasing a home and a new car. I was just turned down for a credit card from the bank that holds my mortgage. I tried dealing with the original medical office that received my payment, but they said I have to talk to the collection agency.

Answer: Check first to see if the collection account is actually on your credit reports. Go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com, the only site that offers you free, federally mandated annual access to your credit files at the three major credit bureaus. Other sites may advertise “free” credit reports, but they often come with strings attached such as requirements that you sign up for credit monitoring. Sites that offer free scores typically aren’t providing the FICO scores that most lenders use.

If the collection account isn’t on your reports, something else may have caused the score plunge. Consider buying at least one of your FICO scores from MyFico.com, which will give you an explanation of why your score isn’t higher.

If you find the collection account on your records, however, you need to go back to the medical billing office and insist that someone fix this, said Gerri Detweiler, a credit expert for Credit.com.

“The bill did not magically turn up in collections,” Detweiler said. “Someone made a mistake and since it is their office that was the source of the mistake, they need to fix it.”

Detweiler recommends sending a certified letter explaining that the office has damaged your credit reports and that if someone doesn’t fix the mistake immediately, you will be talking to an attorney about a credit damage lawsuit.

“If the medical office placed it for collections, they can pull it back from collections,” Detweiler said. “It sounds like they are being lazy by refusing to help.”

If the office balks for any reason, you can follow up with an attorney (you can get referrals from the National Assn. of Consumer Advocates at http://www.naca.net). You also can send a certified letter to the collection agency explaining the mistake and insisting it be removed from your credit reports.

You should mention in the letter that you’re trying to get a mortgage and a car loan and that if you’re unsuccessful because of this error, you’ll be talking with a consumer law attorney. It would be helpful to include proof of the mistake, Detweiler said. In many cases, the collection agency will simply delete the erroneous information rather than face getting sued.

“They may not want to bother with it since it’s such a small amount and not worth risking a lawsuit over,” Detweiler said.