TGIF: Never Trust a Medical Invoice

TGIFI’m pretty sure the medical establishment is out to get me and my hard-earned money. Over the last 20 years, maybe 1 in 10 invoices that show a balance due has been correct. So is this intentional, or do they have a team of monkeys preparing the invoices? Stupid question. Monkeys are way better than this.

I really do like paying bills. I’ll pay them as soon as they arrive, gladly forsaking pennies of interest I could have made by stretching them out. It’s cathartic for me and just one more manifestation of a lifelong aversion to debt.

So I find it interesting that as soon as I get a medical bill, I enter a Bizarro world where I set it aside and forget all about it. I transform from a responsible guy with sterling credit to Captain Subprime, ignoring my bills and sippin’ on a bottle of Ripple.

In general, I do not recommend ignoring bills (or sippin’ Ripple), but this strategy does seem to work for me with medical bills. Because maybe 7 out of 10 balances magically disappear when I get the next invoice or two. I used to try to follow all of the discounts and adjustments and transformations that drove the balance down to 0, but now I don’t care.

If the invoices keep comin’, and the aging starts to get up there, then it may – may – get my attention and warrant a call. I used to prepare for these calls to make sure I understood deductibles and whatnot, but Captain Subprime finally figured out most of the charges go away with simply asking “Can you explain the charges?” followed by a very thoughtful “Hmmmmm…I thought that was covered by my insurance.” (If you can handle advanced negotiations, you’re welcome to use these yourself.) Most of the time, the balance would disappear because something was coded wrong (had that just last week), or they concluded the gig was up. Once in a blue moon I’d actually pay something.

This seems like an inefficient system, but I suspect medical providers don’t have a staff of monkeys and are being quite rational. By quickly shooting out beautifully detailed invoices with big balances due, medical providers 1) start the payable aging process; and 2) may actually get people to pay.

So while my innate desire to pay bills instantly is strong, my love of my money is even stronger. If I were to pay an overstated balance on a first medical invoice, I know I’d never see that money again.

 

Introducing TGIF

As much as I’d like it to, this blog doesn’t seem to be writing itself.

But that’s all about to change, because today I launch a beauty of a post format which will nigh near write itself. Any guesses on what day I’ll post? I’d love to say it’s coming weekly, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, OK?

 

State of the Market

It’s a little difficult to make sense of the markets right now. Oil seems to be a big driver, and it’s heartening that Wall Street analysts seem to have absolutely no clue what’s going on. These folks fashion themselves way smarter than me, and their full time job is to understand this stuff. As I try to catch a falling knife this year and put some of my funds back to work at the perfect market nadir, I sure like my chances.

It looks like car loan debt is higher than ever, including to subprime and deep subprime borrowers. This doesn’t sound good. And I wasn’t aware “deep subprime” was a thing – it’s nice to know the subprime folks have someone they can look down on now.

 

Personal Finance Links

I found to my delight that Scott Burns, a longtime finance columnist for the Dallas Morning News, has a blog. A lot of personal finance writers tackle when to retire, but the advice seems to focus on variations of “stop working when passive income = expenses”. Burns focuses on the marginal benefits of an extra year of work, which was an interesting approach to the question.

Mr. Money Mustache is the patron saint of DIY. I offer as Exhibit Z that he ferments his own cider. I’ve always thought there must be a line where he would happily outsource (perhaps open heart surgery?), but I was surprised to find that it was actually doing his taxes. While I’m heartened that I out-DIY him here, I’m also worried that this is a very bad sign of how Byzantine our tax system has become.

Nelson at Financial Uproar has an interesting take on which U.S. cities would be best for retirement . Galveston Texas and Mobile Alabama make the list. Did I mention that Nelson styles himself a contrarian? While I initially disagreed with just about every city on the list, I realized that he (as a Canadian) was looking through a more objective lens and probably uncovering some value as a result. I suspect there’s a lesson there beyond just picking a place to retire.

 

New Glossary Addition

This won’t be a regular feature, but every once in a TGIF, you’ll get a juicy new addition to my awesome and growing glossary. I don’t want any readers to suffer sensory overload – this post is already dripping with content – so I’ll hold off on this for now.

 

The Market for President

No need to watch all of the primaries and caucuses and study an electoral map with your slide rule. Just look at the latest odds from London, and you’ll know what’s going down.

presidential_odds_2016_02_12Clinton remains our favorite. Trump dropped to 7 to 1 after Iowa, but has clawed some back. The field is closing in. We have ourselves a race!

 

Teaser for Upcoming Posts

My 2015 travel hacking update is long overdue. Note to self: write travel hacking post for 2015.

 

 

Happy Friday everyone!

 

 

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