Medical Bills - How to Deal With

I've no special expertise, but this is how I have dealt with them lately.

  1. Wait at least two months for all the bills and insurance statements to come through. (Generally there's no penalty so long as you pay within 90 days, but check and make sure.)
  2. Take the time to figure out, as much as you can, exactly what the bills and statements say. This can be nearly impossible.
    All the people you will talk to are reasonable people trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Treat them well. Their job is confusing and difficult and you need their help. Document all conversations including the name of each person you contact and the time of the call. Remember that they are doing their best but their job is to maximize payment to the hospital or minimize expenses for the insurer.
  3. Call the hospital and confirm that you understand what the bills say.
  4. Call the insurance company and confirm that you understand what they are willing to pay.
  5. Study your insurance plan documents. Keep in mind that the summary which you may have is not an official document. You may have to get the original. You will probably have to contact the insurance company to get clarification. Their interpretation will favor them as much as possible, but it isn't necessarily correct.
  6. If it makes sense at this point, go ahead and pay the remainder. If it doesn't make sense, get on the phone again and ask them to explain. Be respectful and as nice as you can, but be insistent. Don't get put in the position of relaying information from the provider to the insurance company. Insist that they contact each other. Provide the names of the people you have talked to so they can talk to the same people. If the people you talk to aren't forthcoming or reasonable, ask to speak to their supervisors.
  7. If it makes sense now, pay the remainder. If it doesn't make sense, go to the person who negotiated the policy with the insurance company. That will usually be the benefits person at your employer or the person who sold you the policy. Ask for their help in understanding the situation and ask them to advocate for you with their contacts. Be nice but insistent all the way through the process. Document everything.
I've had to do this twice in the last year. It took a lot of my time and frustration and it took a lot of their time and frustration, but I got a reasonable solution each time. (Actually one is still in process, but I think it will be solved.)

(No political message here, but keep in mind that in most other modern countries none of this is necessary.)


Blogger Link Colors

I had the hardest time trying to fix the color of the links here in Blogger. It used to look like this.

Actually the blue was quite a bit brighter and it virtually strobed against the pale tan background. I wanted a less jarring color. I was also unable to change the color of the title.

I tried to fix it through the Customize/Layout/Fonts and Colors - controls and that made no difference.

I Googled around and found some suggestion on how to change them in HTML. I opened up the HTML through Customize/Layout/Edit HTML and saved a copy before making any changes. The variables for the text were already set to the colors which I had specified in Fonts and Colors. Further down, in the section with "a:link", "a:visited", and "a:hover" the colors were assigned by the variables above. I tried substituting specific colors for the variables, but it made no difference. (I'm only barely HTML literate.)

Then I tried radical changes. I selected a whole different template. That changes the appearance dramatically, but the color of the title and of the links didn't change. That indicated to me that template was not causing the trouble. I thought it was the template which controlled this, but apparently not.

Then I learned something interesting. If I only display one posting at a time, the colors I specified do show! That indicated again that there must be some code outside of the template which caused the problem. The only remaining place is in a posting. I don't know why this would be, but it seems to have been the case. Here's what I did:
  1. I decreased the number of posts displayed at a time - Customize/Settings/Formatting/Show - to five. At that point, my first page looked right. It didn't have the bright colored links.
  2. I went through the pages to see when the bright colored links were displayed.
  3. On the page which had the problem, I looked at each posting one at a time. I found the one posting which had the problem.
  4. I looked at the HTML for that posting and there was a ton of code which I didn't recognize and which didn't seem to have anything to do with the text or the pictures. (I was experimenting with using an online blog editor and MS Word to write blog posts at about that time. I suspect that caused the problem.) I deleted the excess HTML and the bright blue was gone!
I had to go back and play with the settings again, but I could do it with the standard controls at Customize/Layout/Fonts and Colors and it worked just fine.


Before I figured this out I had no luck finding instructions which related to the problem above. Now that I figured it out and wrote the above, all the instructions which comes up relate to this problem. (frustration) I recommend the clear instructions by BlogBulk.


Health Care Reform # 8

I watched Barrack Obama’s speech to the joint session of congress while eating dinner last night. I purposely haven’t read any commentary yet. I wasn’t optimistic about the speech, but I had hope. Here are my thoughts:

He is starting from a position where he has already compromised on critical issues. He’s proposing a regulated private system with public funding for the poorest. He is being accused of communism. Since he is already demonized, he may as well take the step to a government funded capitalist system like the rest of the world.

I think I heard him say that a single-payer system is a government controlled health care system. If that’s what he said, he’s wrong. It is a taxpayer funded capitalist system. He says that we must support the health insurance and the pharmaceutical industries which have served us so poorly. If we want savings and improved outcomes, we have to make a difficult transition. We may as well do it now.

As I listened, I didn’t hear anything about the public option until near the end. He seemed to describe it as no different from the health co-ops which have been discussed. His public option seems to be available only to those who could not otherwise afford insurance. This seems to guarantee that no one would choose it voluntarily. It also makes it impossible for the public option to become the dominant health plan. That should mollify the critics, but probably won’t. I think it makes it a failure over all.

He didn’t do anything to contradict the stories about his deals with the pharmaceutical industry or hospitals.

He teased Republicans about malpractice law. He got them excited. Then he showed that he wasn't serious. Think how betrayed the Republican’s felt after sitting there applauding his idea. Of course abuse of the legal system is not a major part of the problem, but it is part of the problem. Why not compromise here. At least establish standards of care and caps on pain and suffering.

I didn’t hear anything he said that would really decrease costs. He’s adding layers.

I don’t like the idea of punishing people for failing to buy insurance. We should have a system which provides for all instead of a system which punishes people for trying to manage without government involvement. I respect people like that. That is going to anger and mobilize many people – for good reason.

Most importantly, he had no specific plan to offer. The current hodgepodge of messy bills still exists. There is no one plan which can be explained and defended. I can’t believe he doesn’t see this.

Good things:

He made it clear that insurance companies had to be reasonable.

He did refer to some statements as lies, but he didn’t get specific. He addressed death panels, cuts to Medicare and illegal immigrants.

He made clear that Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid were all seen as disasters for the country and they weren’t. In fact, we are dependent on them.

I’ll work for this, but he’s fighting for a small thing. We have to fight as hard as if he were trying to accomplish a big thing.