Keep Records that Save You Money

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | February 14, 2013

Memories are fallible but hand- or typewritten notes and receipt don’t lie; keeping records is what I do best. Some people have suggested my recordkeeping was a compulsion but it have saved my family over $200,000 in medical costs by writing down names, dates and numbers. That’s a compulsion I can live with.

      • One stress test: $3,000
      • One phone call: $ .00
      • One name: $ .00
      • Final cost: $ .00

That was for a stress test ordered by the doctor after palpitations and numbness in my cheek several years ago. I called from the facility’s phone to confirm the test was covered. I asked for the representative’s name and thanked her for her help. When the bill arrived, I told the insurance company the rep’s name and that they confirmed coverage. That was done with one quick phone call.

The $200,000 surgery was to remove an aneurysm from behind an eye that was causing double vision. The surgeon let blood leak into my brain causing a stroke and ballooning the cost. After my husband received coverage denial for the second time, I constructed my notes and wrote a one-page appeal letter chronicling steps taken with approval from the insurance company. A month later we received a very polite letter stating they had reversed their earlier decision with new information I provided. We still owed a small percentage because it was an out-of-network hospital but we knew that ahead of time. No big deal.

It is no secret that many insurance companies’ first response is to deny costly insurance claims. Some people automatically pay bills assuming the insurance company paid their share and you must pay what’s left. My husband had resigned himself to dipping into the 401K to pay the $200,000 bill.

Your goal would be to build a paper trail in case you need to prove you followed procedure and have done everything required to meet their criteria for payment.

What can you do?

Keep a pen or pencil by the phone to scribble notes down that are pertinent as you talk and listen. Get your documents and account numbers ready. The most important items are; the date, time, doctor or name and address of facility, name of the person you are speaking with, reason for the call and notes and information given and received. Ask them to repeat (phone, approval, account, reference) numbers, spell names, medical terminology or to speak slower to make sure you get the information written down correctly. As soon as you are finished with your call, arrange clear notes and highlight any upcoming timelines such as a form needing to be in their office by a given date. Another option is to tape calls and transcribe contents later. Tip: It’s easier to read over notes than to listen and rewind a recorder.

You can create a simple form with a table or simply list the important pieces of information needed and then copy/paste each time it is needed as a reminder. You can back up your documents or the folder every one to three months where they are located or e-mail it to yourself from a provider you can get to from any computer. If you download your e-mail to your computer it won’t work in case of malfunctions or damage. Cloud storage is available and safe as well.

My doctor appointment form includes mileage (for taxes) dates, addresses, phone numbers, reason for the visit, any tests to be done, prescriptions to be filled and outcomes or doctor’s comments or directions.

Lastly, I record all prescriptions whether long-term or short-term. I record the name of each medication, generic name and which I use listed in bold letters. I list the prescribing doctor’s name and phone number. I record the prescription number, quantity, directions for use and the reason or condition for the medication. I record the price paid for the previous year; if there is a sudden spike in price I contact the pharmacy to find out the reason. We have gotten wrong medications before and price was a major difference. I keep a permanent record of medications that have caused an adverse reaction. I keep a ‘short list’ to take with me to any medical appointment or emergency room visit. This saves much aggravation, time and omitted information each time. (How quickly and correctly can you name the seven dwarfs?)

I’m always looking for new ways to improve efficiency, do you have any tips I could include? How do you keep records? We would love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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