INDIANAPOLIS — Medical bills can be daunting to receive in the mail. The cost is oftentimes more than people can afford.
But the price on the bill could be wrong and you could be paying far more than necessary, which is why a Carmel woman is on a mission to help patients pay less.
"I think people have no idea. They would be shocked," Jenni Nolan said about the amount of bills sent to patients that are incorrect.
Nolan created "Clear Healthcare Advocacy," a business that works with patients to correct and lower payments of medical bills.
She works as a patient advocate calling healthcare providers, reviewing bills and having things adjusted.
"I help overwhelmed patients make sense of their medical bills, health insurance claims, resolve issues and negotiate bills," Nolan said.
Nolan has decades of experience in the medical world, working in a physicians office management role before turning to help patients herself.
"I started noticing how many opportunities for error there were and how many bills were incorrect," she said.
It's a job that takes time and expertise to dig through bills and spot discrepancies.
"You've got to have the wear with all, and the patience, and the time to dig in and try to figure it out," Nolan said.
Nolan says there is so much that can be wrong on bills.
From totals not being ran through insurance, insurance not covering items they're supposed to, out of network costs being wrong and more.
Still, even if all of that is right, you could get a lower price.
"A bill is correct but it is overpriced. You can try to negotiate," Nolan said.
Hospitals are required, by price transparency rules, to share on their website the cots of things for patients, and even break them down by insurance types and out of pocket numbers. This means you have a leg to stand on when negotiating those bills.
"We saved thousands of dollars," Steve Moulds said.
Moulds is a client of Nolan's. She was able to help him get his medical bills lowered.
"Other than just calling the hospital and saying, 'Is there anything you can do to help us? I didn't really know what else to do,'" Moulds said.
For people like Deb Jansen, medical bills can seem impossible to pay.
"We're currently over $300,000 into medical bills," Jansen said.
Her insurance took care of a big chunk of it.
Still the out of pocket cost was a tough number to look at.
"We just don't have the money right now to pay these bills and that's what the biggest issue is," Jansen said.
Nolan recommends doing the following right away when you get a bill:
- Look for the EOB (explanation of benefits)
- Negotiate the bill
- Check to see what was covered by insurance
The EOB shows you how medical insurance processed the claim submitted.
If you don't see an EOB on your statement, that should be a red flag.
It could mean insurance wasn't billed before you were.
Nolan says to not be afraid to call the hospital and ask for a lower price. You might be surprised what they will do for you.
As far as coverage by your insurance, many times things will be applied to a deductible that should have been covered by insurance.
There is a difference between bills and claims, so it's important to know the difference.
You should also know your insurance coverage and keep track of your deductible.
Nolan has a free guide with tips on what to look for and how to understand your bills, here.