Friday, August 7, 2015

Tips for keeping hospital costs down


Outstanding medical bills make up the largest single category of consumer debt in collection today. You’re smart to take steps now to manage your costs. One place to start is by keeping a close eye on what you’re being charged. Billing errors are more common than most people realize.

I recommend that you do your best to keep an accurate record of your hospital stay, noting the dates, times and places of your admission, release, procedures performed, doctors who saw you and medications provided. Ask your spouse, a companion or friend to help you with this task.

Once you’re discharged, request an itemized statement from the hospital with every individual charge listed. Although you are entitled to receive an itemized bill, many hospitals send a summary bill unless requested otherwise. Check through the itemized list to make sure everything you’re being charged for is correct.

Check the following information for errors: 
Verify your insurance policy number and all personal information. Errors may result in delayed or denied payments from your insurance provider.
Correct date and time for your admission and release
Correct list of the procedures and tests performed
Duplicate charges for any services or procedures
Charges for tests or procedures that were canceled

If you find a questionable charge, contact your health care provider right away. Track all calls, noting the names, phone numbers and call reference numbers every time you talk to someone about your medical bills. This goes for your insurance providers, your physicians and their staff as well as the hospital customer service department.

If you believe you have been overcharged and you’re unable to get any satisfaction, seek assistance from a medical or patient advocate. My clients can always call me if they have questions on medical bills or other issues concerning their insurance coverage. It’s one of the benefits of having a personal insurance agent.

 There are other ways you can reduce your out-of-pocket costs for co-pays, deductibles and other medical expenses, including indemnity insurance plans and Medicare supplement plans. Contact me to go over your options and come up with a plan that works for you. Email me or call 440-255-5700 today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Medicare terms: How many do you know?

Ever get confused by different terms used by Medicare or your Medicare Advantage Plan. Here are a few of the more common ones that you need to be familiar with.  Test yourself and see how many you get right.

Accepts Assignment: An agreement that your health care provider will accept the Medicare-approved amount for services as full payment limiting your share of the cost to your coinsurance and deductible.

Benefit Period: A benefit period begins the day you are admitted as an inpatient to a hospital or skilled nursing facility and ends when you haven’t received any inpatient hospital care (or skilled care) for 60 days in a row. You may be in the hospital more than once during a benefit period. There’s no limit on the number of benefit periods Medicare will cover. Part A charges a deductible for each benefit period.

Coinsurance: The percent of the cost of a service which you pay. For example, Medicare pays 80% and you would pay 20% as coinsurance.

Deductible: A fixed amount that you pay for your medical care first, before insurance or Medicare starts to pay.

Lifetime Reserve Days: For Medicare Part A, there are a set number of hospital days you can draw on if your stay lasts longer than 90 days in a benefit period. You have 60 lifetime reserve days. A lifetime reserve day cannot be replaced.

Medicare-approved amount: In Original Medicare, this is the amount health care providers who accepts assignment can be paid. It may be less than the actual amount a doctor or supplier charges. Medicare pays part of this amount and you’re responsible for the difference. Providers who accept Medicare but not assignment can charge up to 15% above this amount.

Out of pocket limit: A limit that Medicare Advantage plans set on what you will have to personally spend in a plan year. For Medicare Part D plans, this is the maximum amount of money you will have to spend out of your own pocket before catastrophic coverage kicks in for the year.  

If you have more questions, please join me for my class, Getting Started with Medicare. It will help you gain a basic understanding of Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans and many other terms you’ll need to know. For a list of all my upcoming classes, visit my website at www.mutskoinsurance.com/seminars. (Pre-registration is required. These events are only for educational purposes and no plan specific benefits or details will be discussed.)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Are changes in store for health care insurance for same-sex spouses?

The Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage in all 50 states for same-sex couples is bound to have far-reaching repercussions. In the coming months, you are sure to hear more about how the ruling is affecting income taxes, social security, retirement accounts, inheritances and, of course, health insurance.
Many issues surrounding same-sex spouses and health care have already been addressed. HealthCare.gov, the official website for the Affordable Care Act, already states, “For coverage starting in 2015, an insurance company that offers health coverage to opposite-sex spouses must do the same for same-sex spouses.”
This means that as long as a couple is legally married an insurance company is not permitted to discriminate against them when offering coverage. The company must offer to same-sex spouses the same coverage it offers to opposite-sex spouses.
The Affordable Care Marketplace treats married same-sex couples the same as married opposite-sex couples when they apply for premium tax credits and lower out-of-pocket costs on private insurance plans. This is true in all states.
Legal questions remain about whether employers who provide health insurance benefits for spouses will be required to provide the same benefit to same sex couples. While the issue is not yet settled it is likely that many employers who offer health coverage to an employee’s spouse will simply offer that coverage to all spouses in the future. It simplifies administration of the plans and also avoids any discrimination issues that could result if the employer limited coverage to opposite-sex spouses.
The Supreme Court’s ruling also means that same-sex married couples have the same rights under Medicare as other married couple. If a spouse has not earned 40 credits to qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A they now can qualify for it based on the work record of their spouse, if he or she has achieved the required credits and is age 62 or older. 
Same-sex spouses will now be treated as family, so that if one spouse requires hospitalization, the other will have access to medical information regarding the hospitalized spouse’s condition, as well as to visitation rights — without having to worry about whether the specific state recognizes their marriage.
If you have any questions concerning your health or life insurance coverage, please let me know. As an independent agent, I represent many of the nation’s most respected insurance companies and will help you find the right insurance plan for you Contact me at 440-255-5700 or email me and we’ll set up a time to talk.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Learn the basics on Medicare - August 5 at Mentor Library

Turning 65 this year? Then now is the time for you to learn all you can about Medicare.

Join me on August 15 for my class, Getting Started with Medicare, a 90 minute informational session presented by me, Laura Mutsko of Mutsko Insurance Services, LLC.
We'll cover all the basics, so you have a better understanding of how Medicare works and how to make the most of it. Sessions are educational only: no specific benefits, products or prices will be discussed

Getting Started with Medicare
Mentor Library
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
6:30 - 8:30 PM
8215 Mentor Ave, Room B

The class is free and open to the public, but space is limited so call to reserve your spot today. 440-255-5700.  

For a complete list of other class dates and times, visit www.mutskoinsurance.com/seminars or call Mutsko Insurance Services at 440-255-5700.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

How to choose a new doctor

Whether you are searching for a new doctor because of a recent move or you’re just ready for a change, finding the right physician is an important step in managing your health care. Your primary doctor is the point where all your care begins. Studies indicate that having access to good primary care is linked to lower mortality rates, fewer hospital visits and better health outcomes.

Here are five tips for finding the right doctor for you:

Start by determining which doctors are in your insurance network. Doctors in an insurer’s network contract with the insurance provider and agree to accept specified payment rates. If you choose someone outside your plan’s network, your costs may be higher. To find a list of “in-network” doctors and hospitals, call your health insurer and ask for a list of in-network providers.

If you have Original Medicare, search for doctors using Medicare’s Physician Compare at Medicare.gov. This tool provides information about primary care providers, specialists, hospitals and more. It will also help you find providers who accept Medicare.

Ask for recommendations from people you trust. Check with family members, co-workers and friends for doctors they rely on. You can also ask for a recommendation from other health care professionals including your pharmacist, specialist or dentist.

Consider logistics. Do you want a doctor located close to your home or office? Consider their office hours – what days and times does the doctor see patients? Find out who covers for your doctor when he or she is not in?  Many doctors now use email or an online portal to communicate with patients which may be important to you when selecting a physician. It’s also a good idea to find out what hospital your doctor refers to.

Research your doctor’s background. You can find sites that provide information on certification or educational background at websites like the American Medical Association Doctor Finder and American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters.  To learn about complaints filed against a doctor, check with your state medical board.

Whatever you do, please don’t wait until you get sick or hurt and try to find a new primary care physician. By having an established relationship, it will be so much easier for you and your family if or when you require care.

For answers to your life, health or Medicare plan questions please contact me at Mutsko Insurance Services, LLC.Call 440-255-5700 today.

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Insurance to help cover out-of-pocket expenses


As you already know, a hospital stay or an accident that requires medical treatment can be very expensive. And, no matter how good your health insurance plan or Medicare Advantage Plan is, there are going to be gaps and out-of-pocket expenses that you will have to pay. These extras add up quickly and chip away at your hard-earned savings.

The good news is there are now plans to help fill these gaps. I can show you a plan that will help to cover the kind of costs that you mentioned.  It’s called an Indemnity Insurance Plan. When you’re sick or hurt and your major medical plan steps in to cover your doctors, hospitals and other health care providers, this kind of insurance plan pays you cash benefits to offset the cost of deductibles, co-pays, household expenses and out-of-pocket costs not covered by other insurance. The benefits are paid directly to you, unless you choose to assign them to a medical provider.

Plans are available for virtually all age groups, including those over age 65.

The Indemnity Plan I have in mind for you is not a Medicare supplement policy. It is not a major medical policy. It is affordable coverage that pays you cash to use however you want whenever you’re sick, hurt or require nursing care. The plan is offered through one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefit companies . . . a company that you can trust to be there when you need them.

Call me to learn more about Indemnity Insurance and how it can reduce some of the worry that accompanies a health care emergency. Call me for all your life, health and Medicare insurance needs and I’ll help you find the best insurance for you and your family. There’s never a charge for my services. Call 440-255-5700 today.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Be wary of FREE medical devices

You’ve probably received an email or phone call offering you a free knee brace, diabetes test strips or a personal alarm system. The caller says it’s FREE. Medicare or your health insurance plan will cover 100% of the cost. You are assured there’s no obligation on your part and all they need is a little information to get started.

Sounds tempting, but my advice to you is WATCH OUT. It may be a scam designed to separate you from your hard earned money.

According to the Better Business Bureau, “In one version (of the scam) the recorded call claims that you can get an alarm system or medical supplies worth several hundred dollars for free. You are just responsible for a low monthly charge. In another variation, the call or email claims that “doctor-ordered” medicine or a medical device is already in the mail, and the call is confirming the shipment. In both cases, you will be asked to provide personal and/or insurance information. Just don’t expect your “free” products to ever arrive.” 

If you wish to follow up on a low-cost or free offer you’ve received, take the callers information and then contact your doctor or healthcare provider to help you determine whether the product or device is something you need. Medicare and insurance companies only cover durable medical equipment and other items that are medically necessary. You may want a scooter, but if you don’t need one, Medicare won’t pay for it.

Remember, it is illegal for medical device companies to make unsolicited calls to people on Medicare. The only three exceptions to this rule are:

1.    If you gave the company written permission to contact you

2.    If you received an item from the company in the past

3.    If the item you received was covered by your plan or the call is regarding that item.

While some of these low-cost/no-cost offers may be legitimate, you should always be careful. Under no circumstances should you provide personal medical information, banking information or Medicare identification information to anyone before you double check with your insurance company, your health care provider and the Better Business Bureau.

Always remember the old saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Got questions on insurance? Call me today at 440-255-5700 or email me at Lmutsko@mutskoinsurance.com.