5 Cures for a High Doctor Bill
Just as the health-care system prepares for an influx of newly insured patients, some consumers are facing hefty doctor bills that they weren’t expecting.
As the Wall Street Journal reported this week, the higher costs reflect a bigger trend in medicine. As more hospitals buy up private physician practices, they’re often able to charge higher rates than those doctors’ offices formerly charged—sometimes more than twice as much for the same procedures. Since insurance plans typically cover a fixed percentage of a doctor’s bill, the patients’ out-of-pocket costs often go up as the total bill gets higher.
It’s an awkward situation that can leave patients at odds with both their doctors and the insurance company. But experts say there are options for sticker-shocked patients besides paying the full bill.
Bargain it Down
In the case of a surprisingly high tab for medical work, patients should approach their doctor, says Matthew Tassey, principal of Scribner Insurance and former chairman of the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education. When a patient explains that he or she can’t afford to pay a bill, the doctor or hospital is likely to work out a payment plan; the care provider might also reduce its fees, by charging the patient the in-network rate for an out-of-network service, for example. From the doctor’s perspective, even a partial payment can be better than a non-payment or a long dispute. “It’s much less time consuming and aggravating if you can make a deal to pay half of it in cash,” Tassey says. The first step is visiting the doctor’s office manager or the hospital’s finance office and asking to speak with your doctor. Even if lowering the fee isn’t at the doctor’s discretion, “You need an ally on the inside,” Tassey says. “If you can help that doctor be your advocate, you have a much, much higher success rate at getting the bill reduced.”
Review Your Bill
Insurance experts say that as the medical billing system becomes increasingly automated, billing mistakes are common—and if the doctor’s visit is coded incorrectly, the insurance provider might refuse to reimburse it. The bill can clue the patient in to why the insurer did not pay for the procedure, which could help in an appeals process. Many insurance companies also allow patients to track their bill’s processing online and find out if the insurer has paid it yet.
In some cases, an insurance company may refuse to pay some or all of what the doctor or hospital charges, leaving the patient on the hook for even more of the bill. The Affordable Care Act strengthened consumers’ ability to appeal their insurance companies’ reimbursement decisions by requiring an external appeals process through an independent review body, in addition to the internal appeals process that insurers already offered. To appeal, patients have to illustrate why the medical care was necessary or why the insurance plan’s guidelines are outdated. Again, it helps to talk to your doctor first, says Cheryl Fish-Parcham, deputy director of health policy for Families USA, a consumer health advocacy organization: “You definitely need medical evidence to be successful,” says Fish-Parcham.
Get Help Negotiating
Many states now offer so-called consumer assistance programs, funded by grants through the Affordable Care Act, to help people navigate health insurance headaches, including filing appeals with insurance providers. In their first year, the consumer assistance programs recovered more than $18 million for consumers, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. In states that don’t have one of the programs, patients can hire independent health care advocates to help guide them through the appeals process or negotiate with medical providers.
To prevent a future sticker-shock situation, experts advise staying in network whenever possible. If time permits, they add, it’s also worth asking your doctor how much a procedure will cost and if it would be cheaper to get it elsewhere—shopping around can save hundreds of dollars.
By Jen Wieczner
Smart Money Article
Wonder how your credit report is created? Sometimes it’s best not to know how the sausage is made, but in this case some extra knowledge may be enlightening.
John Ulzheimer, a credit expert, worked with the Web site Credit Sesame to create a graphic map showing how various types of information make their way — or not — into your credit report.
In most cases, Mr. Ulzheimer said, the credit bureaus — like Equifax, Experian and Transunion — receive information from institutions where you have accounts, like credit card issuers or home loans or student loan lenders. In industry lingo, these are known as “trade” or “tradeline” accounts, he said.
Those accounts make up the bulk of the information in your credit report. Institutions provide the data under agreement with the bureaus, in exchange for access to credit files so they can evaluate the creditworthiness of applicants. Institutions aren’t legally required to report credit information — but if they don’t, they lose the benefit of having access to credit reports.
When credit bureaus get customer data, he said, they generally audit it before posting it to your credit file, to help avoid errors and disputes. A batch of data with an unusually high proportion of delinquencies, for instance, might be sent back for double-checking.
When lenders seek your credit report in response to an application for a credit card or a loan, it shows up as a “hard” inquiry. Too many such inquiries may cause your credit score, which is based on information in your credit report, to dip.
Some inquiries don’t affect your score, however. They include requests made as a result of applying for insurance or for service from a utility company, Mr. Ulzheimer said, and requests you make yourself for a copy of your credit report.
Some public records, like bankruptcy filings or federal tax liens, usually appear on your credit reports because the credit bureaus have electronic access to federal courts through the Pacer document system. But civil judgments filed with state and county courts may or may not show up on your report, since not all of those courts make such information available electronically. Credit bureaus may be able to find the information through database services, but its appearance in credit files is generally less consistent than legal information generated by federal courts. (In other words, you may get lucky.)
Have you ever had a legal judgment appear on your credit report? What impact did it have?
By ANN CARRNS
For Credit Sesame
Section 604 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act says that the credit reporting agencies, Equifax (EFX), Experian (EXPN) and TransUnion, may furnish reports to any company that intends to use that information for the purpose of underwriting insurance. So, at the Federal level, the use of credit reports for underwriting insurance is perfectly legal and many of them do so. The real question is, why do they do it?
Insurance companies have the same issues lenders have: understanding the risk of doing business with certain consumers. It’s not necessarily the risk of being paid or not being paid for their services (premiums). It’s more so the risk of providing a policy for someone who is more likely to file claims and thus be a less profitable customer. It’s all about the money.
The primary difference between banking and insurance is that insurance policies are all secured, essentially. If you don’t pay your premiums they’ll cut you off, which could lead to you losing your home (it’s called a non-monetary default) or you getting arrested for driving without insurance. Determining whether or not you’ll pay your premiums is not the primary reason some of them pull your credit reports and credit scores.
The primary reason is to determine if they even want to do business with you and/or under what terms. Despite what many believe, how you manage your credit is very predictive of what kind of insurance customer you’ll be. It’s predictive not only of your likelihood of filing claims but also predictive of how profitable you’ll be. If it weren’t, insurance companies wouldn’t spend the money buying millions of credit reports and scores each year.
They’re Not The Same Credit Scores
Much like the financial services environment, the insurance environment relies heavily on credit scores. This isn’t anything new. However, the type of score they’re using is not the same type of score banks and other financial services companies use. In fact, they’re very different.
The scores used by insurance companies are called Insurance Credit Bureau Scores or Insurance Risk Credit Scores. They are developed by a variety of companies, including FICO and LexisNexis. LexisNexis develops the LexisNexis Attract Score, which is very commonly used by insurance companies.
Insurance scores consider credit information and/or previous insurance claim information. So, if you filed an auto claim or a homeowner’s claim it can be considered in your insurance score and it can result in a lower score. And if you’re assuming the presence of claims means that you’re a less profitable insurance customer, well, you’d be right. Yes, it’s all about the money.
But They’re The Same Credit Reports
While the scores used by insurance companies are different, the reports they use are the same as the reports used by financial services companies. The reason: all credit reports originate from the same three places; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Point being, there are no secret credit reports that insurance companies use to set your premiums.
Insurance Inquiries Don’t Hurt Your Credit Scores
Enough bad news. When you apply for insurance, the insurance company may or may not access your credit reports and scores. There is no guarantee that they will, in fact, pull your credit reports. But, it’s a safe bet.
If the insurance company does choose to access your credit report and score, there will an inquiry posted to the credit file. It will clearly be identified as being from your insurance company. And, more importantly, it will systemically be coded as coming from an insurance company. This is good news because insurance related inquiries are not counted in your credit scores.
You will be able to see them, but no other entity will be able to see them. And, credit-scoring systems don’t not consider insurance-related inquiries so they’ll never lower your credit scores.
I’ll end on that high note.
By John Ulzheimer here
Let’s say you’ve made some mistakes with your credit. With over 35% of the population scoring below 650 on the FICO scoring scale, you’re certainly not alone. But now that you’ve made the mistake, how long are you going to have to live with it?
Each and every negative item has a reportable statute of limitations. That means the credit bureaus can legally report it for some period of time before it must be removed. Let’s dive in…
This one has possibly the most confusing statute of limitations so let’s get it out of the way first. Chapter 7 bankruptcies can remain on your credit files for ten years from the date filed. Chapter 13 bankruptcies can remain on file for seven years FROM THE DISCHARGE DATE. This is important because most people believe 13s have to be removed seven years from the filing date, which is incorrect. It normally takes three to five years for a Chapter 13 to discharge due to the repayment process. That’s when the 7 years begins. The cap on all bankruptcies is ten years so most 13s remain on file for a full ten years, just like Chapter 7s.
This one has the longest statute of limitations and must be broken down into three categories; released, unpaid, withdrawn.
Released Tax Liens – Released liens can remain on file for seven years from the date released. This included liens that have been settled for less than you really owe.
Unpaid Tax Liens – Sit down. Unpaid tax liens can remain on your credit file indefinitely. That’s the bad news. Now the good news…
Paid and Withdrawn Tax Liens – Paid tax liens normally stay on file for seven years, but the IRS announced that they will withdraw the lien if paid in full AND the taxpayer requests a withdrawal. The credit bureaus do not report withdrawn tax liens so they will come off your files almost immediately if you get them withdrawn.
Defaulted Government Guaranteed Student Loans
The amount of time is actually governed by the Higher Education Act instead of the FCRA. Defaulted student loans can remain on your credit reports for 7 years from the date they are paid, 7 years from the date they were first reported or 7 years from the date the loan re-defaults. The point you should take away from this…pay your student loans!
The Seven Year Club
Delinquent Child Support Obligations
Judgments – Seven years from the filing date whether satisfied or not.
Collections – Seven years from date of default with the ORIGINAL creditor, not seven years from when the collection agency buys or is consigned the debt.
Charge Offs – Seven years from the date of the original terminal delinquency.
Settlements – Seven years from the date of the original terminal delinquency
Repossessions and Foreclosures – Seven years from the date of the original terminal delinquency.
Late Payments – Seven years from the date of occurrence.
You’ll notice “terminal delinquency” several times above. The seven year period actually begins 180 days AFTER the original delinquency that leads to a collection, charge off or similarly negative action. So, technically these items remain on your credit file for 7.5 years from the date of the last delinquency before the terminal delinquency.
If you’ve never heard of this term let’s hope you never do. Re-aging is the illegal process of changing the “purge from date” so the credit reporting extends past the allowable period of time. This is not common but when it’s done, it’s usually a collection agency or debt buyer who is breaking the law. It’s a clear violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act but the debtor has to know it has happened.
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Our client signs up for our services in July and within 60 days we are able to get the IRS to “Withdraw” (Meaning DELETE) 4 tax liens…1 of which is reporting to the credit bureaus.
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Will Defaulting on Season Tickets Hurt My Credit Score?
Attention sports fans: This answer could prove helpful if your team ticks you off.
We recently received a reader question that was very interesting — something we hadn’t thought of before. This one’s for you sports fans out there:
Does anyone know the impact of defaulting on season tickets will have on one’s credit? Will it have an impact on my car insurance, current loans for cars, or anything else? Please let me know. – Angry Fan
How defaulting on season tickets would impact your credit would depend on whether or not the organization reports the incident to the credit reporting agencies. If the default is reported as a collection, because collection accounts are considered severe delinquencies, the account would have a significant impact on your current credit standing and would hurt your credit scores.
This wouldn’t necessarily impact any accounts you currently have open, but if the impact is significant and your credit scores take a severe hit, it could affect future loans, their interest rates and your ability to qualify for them.
Your question prompted us to make a couple of calls to find out exactly how season ticket holder accounts are handled by major league sporting establishments. Interestingly enough, policies vary depending on the establishment, but what we learned may ease your mind.
According to the two major league establishments I spoke with, season tickets are normally paid for in advance, prior to the tickets being released and issued to the purchaser. Generally speaking, there are no contractual payment plans or financing options for standard individual season ticket purchases.
However, depending on the ticket package, some plans may allow the purchaser to hold their preferred tickets with a deposit, offering them a short grace period before they’re required to pay the remainder of the balance.
In the event the purchaser is unable to pay the remaining balance before the deadline defined by the establishment, the hold is ended and the tickets are re-released to the public for purchase.
In some cases the deposit will be refunded, and in others the deposit may be forfeited. It all depends on the purchase rules outlined by the individual establishment. In either case, defaulting on a season ticket purchase would have no bearing on your credit unless there were a contractual obligation or financing option involved with the purchase.
For corporate packages or purchases where suites are a part of the season ticket package, it’s an entirely different ballgame. Suites are contractual and legally binding. If you sign a contract and default on the purchase agreement, this is when defaulting on season tickets could end up as a collection in your credit reports and hurt your credit scores.
Ask the Expert: Does Opting Out of Credit Card Offers Improve Credit Scores?
September 16, 2013 by John Ulzheimer
The world of consumer credit is loaded with myths, some more stubborn to debunk than others. Credit scores are used by employers, you build credit faster by carrying credit card balances, credit scores reward you for being in debt, opting out will improve your credit scores. None of these things are actually true and it’s the last myth that I’ll address today.
What is opting out?
Today when you get home from work or school and check your mail you’ll likely find one or more credit card offers from credit card issuers. Those offers are likely of the “preapproved” variety, which means the credit card issuer has actually determined that they are willing to offer you a credit card even though you never asked for one.
The credit card issuer purchased your name, along with many others, from one of the credit reporting agencies through a process called “prescreening.” Prescreening is the process whereby the card issuer gives the credit bureau a list of criteria and wants a list of consumer names and addresses that meet that criteria.
So, for example, I might ask one of the credit bureaus to provide me with list of 1,000,000 names and addresses belonging to consumers who live in the metro Atlanta area who have VantageScore credit scores above 725, don’t have any late payments in the past 24 months, and don’t have more than $10,000 of credit card debt. This is called “selection criteria.” Of course, the credit bureaus have to tap into their credit file database in order determine who meets this criteria.
If the credit card issuer acquires your name and address using this method then they have to make you what’s referred to as a “firm offer of credit or insurance.” This is normally done by sending you a credit card offer in the mail saying that you’ve been pre-approved for some amount of credit. All of this will result in a “promotional” inquiry being posted on your credit report.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives consumers the ability to prevent the credit bureaus from selling their names to lenders through a process called “Opting Out.” You can do this for free at www.optoutprescreen.com. You can opt out forever or for a shorter amount of time. After a few months you’ll stop getting preapproved credit card offers in the mail.
The opting out myth
Some people suggest that you will improve your credit scores by opting out. The problem is that it’s not true. Opting out has no impact, at all, on your credit scores.
The only direct influence opting out has on your credit reports is to prevent new promotional inquiries from being added. But, promotional inquiries are of the “soft” variety and they have no impact on your credit scores anyway so preventing them doesn’t do anything for your scores.
Advantages to opting out
That certainly doesn’t mean there’s no value to opting out. You’ll certainly reduce or fully eliminate credit card offers, which means less mail to throw away or shred. And, because those credit card offers can be used by credit card fraudsters to open new cards in your name opting out can help to minimize your risk of credit card identity theft. But, that’s where the value ends.
Original article here: http://www.creditsesame.com/blog/ask-the-expert-does-opting-out-of-credit-card-offers-improve-credit-scores/
Credit repair, done right, can do wonders for your credit report and your scores too! Here are a few tricks of the credit repair trade that will really make your scores move fast. Put them to work individually, or all at once, depending on your own needs, and watch the magic happen.
1) Open Accounts Right Now!!!
The FICO scoring model will give you bonus points for opening new accounts after a period of bad credit. It is all in the timing. Those old cards that survived the tough times are still worth something, but when it comes to credit repair FICO wants you to prove that you still have what it takes to get back in the swing of borrowing money. If your credit is crummy, secured credit cards are ideal. Small is good! Open now, pay on time, keep your balances low, and your scores may rise over 100 points in the next six months.
2) The Balance-Limit Connection
This credit repair tip is just as urgent for those opening new accounts today as it is for those managing already well seasoned revolving accounts. A little change in your balances can send your credit scores flying or diving. Have you maxed out a card lately and then checked out your scores? This is a fairly recent FICO tweak which can work for or against you. Try to use less than 30 percent of your limit for the best result.
3) Take a Look!
Have you seen you credit report lately? If not, why not??? There may be errors lurking and a simple dispute or challenge to the credit bureaus may be all it will take to get your scores back on track. Not sure how to check your report or how to dispute? Contact a professional right away. Good luck!
By Cesar Marrufo
ELITE FINANCIAL, LLC.com
Consumer Protection Through Education.
Now is the time of year for Promotions and Graduations and preparing for the future.
Do you know someone that needs to prepare for their financial future?
A recent graduate?
A newly engaged couple?
A prospective Home Buyer?
Here are 3 simple ways to improve your credit sores:
1) Review a copy of your credit reports and scores
There are many reasons you may have no credit history (A thin file). Maybe you’re just starting out, maybe you pay cash for everything and have never needed a loan. In any case, if you have no credit history, your FICO score is likely to be low. Get a copy of your report to view the facts about your personal history.
If you need help in understanding your credit, adding positive credit or on any related topic, just ask!
2) Maintain a GOOD credit history
Good job – you have paid your bills on time, and do not have high credit card debt. Here’s some ideas to keep your FICO score as high as possible.
Keep your old accounts OPEN. One part of your credit score is based on the amount of credit available verses amount of credit used. Closing old accounts can lower this part of your score, as well as close the age of your active accounts.
Something to think about. The day of the month you pay off your credit card may have a lot to do with your FICO score. Try changing the payment dates you pay it if your reports show that you are carrying over a balance each month. …just be sure NEVER to pay late.
3) Fix negative information on your reports
Start with making on time payments. The next largest portion of your FICO score is based on how you use credit. The fastest way to improve this is to pay down your credit cards. Next, challenge any and all erroneous, disputable and obsolete credit information with the 3 major credit bureaus.
Elite Financial, LLC is a credit services organization that offers the
* Credit Repair
* Restoration & Rebuilding credit for clients affected by divorce,
bankruptcy or foreclosures
* Credit Education
* Our niche is fixing credit for loan approval
A good FICO score is a huge part of your financial life and future. Keep it healthy. Use it wisely.
Get help when needed.
Use these tips and watch your score climb.