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Archive for July, 2012

4 Things You Should Know When It Comes To Hospital Bills

Did you know that around 63% of all people who file for bankruptcy have a significant health care bill logged, and it’s most probably a hospital bill? For most of history large medical bills weren’t included on credit reports, and thus people might have owed those bills and gotten a lot of calls from collection agencies, but if they knew anything about the system and they didn’t have the money they just didn’t pay the bills.

But those days are gone. Now you can’t buy a house or a car if you have a negative health care bill on your record, and because of the economy more hospitals are finding ways of getting your outstanding bills to collection agencies sooner. The lucky thing for you is that in general they can’t send your bill to a collection agency until it’s been in self pay for 120 days unless you’re a serial case, in which case all bets are off.

However, there are some things everyone should know that can help you out, or at least offer you knowledge so that you know what’s going on. Here are 4 of those things.

1. Payments. Sometimes even if you have insurance you’ll have to make some kind of payment, but those without insurance make bigger payments than even insurance companies do. At least they used to. These days what you need to know is that in many states you have the right to ask the hospital to bill you for the amount that they would receive from their worst contracted insurance payer. It could still be a lot of money, but it gives you a better place to start when it comes to negotiating a payment arrangement.

2. Payment arrangements. Every hospital will offer some kind of payment arrangement. The industry recommendations have always been to try to get an entire bill paid within 6 months, but for those extremely large bills they know better; at least in most places they do. It’s best to set something up, or at least talk to the people at the hospital to see what can be done.

3. Charity Care. The reason you do the first part is because of this part. Hospitals have to offer charity care, which is a combination of how much money your household makes as well as how high your hospital bill is. Each state has its own rules, and hospitals can add to that as long as they make sure they hit the minimums. Some hospitals require you to file for Medicaid first, but in most instances if your income is easily higher than that they’ll dispense with that and just get to the paperwork. You could possibly get the entire amount written off, but often you’ll get a percentage written off, which is still a great benefit.

4. Make some kind of payment. This is an insider secret that most hospitals don’t want you to know. At least 95% of all hospital billing systems will start the cycle of outstanding bills from the beginning if you send in some kind of payment. This means that if you send in a payment of at least $20, you could end up buying yourself a lot of time before someone actually takes a look at your bill and decides to give you a call. This will work if your bill is under $1,000 or so, sometimes under $5,000 at large hospitals because many computer systems can’t be set to expect payments of specific amounts, only to log that payments have come in. This is one of those times where staying hidden and avoiding a problem totally works against you, so give it a shot.
 

5 Items You Can Deduct From Your Taxes

Most people don’t itemize, but for those that do, especially if you’re self employed, you will find that there are lots of little ways you can save some money on your taxes, which could end up gifting you a refund if you’re lucky. Let’s look at 5 of these things.

1. Health care costs. Actually, you won’t save money on medical bills per se, but you can write off any health insurance you pay for right now if it’s a business expense, and once the health care bill kicks in you can write that off if you end up having to pay out of pocket for it. Right now you can also write off some of your expenses if you have a Health Savings Account.

2. Mileage. Almost everyone with a small business knows that they can write off mileage, but many people forget to track it. You might need to either start carrying around a notebook or track the mileage once for those places you visit often and then remember to track that whenever you go to those places again.

3. Cell phone costs. If you pay for your cellphone and you use it for business you can write off certain portions of your bill. You won’t be able to write off the entire amount if you’re on a family plan but you can certainly write off half of it. If your bills are exorbitant you might be asked to prove which calls were for business and which ones weren’t, but if you’re under control you should be fine.

4. Home office expenses. Not only can you write off all the things you buy to use in your home office but you can also write off a portion of the house expenses that you use while you’re in your office. This includes your mortgage, electricity, if you have someone who cleans the house and even if you have someone who cuts your grass, although that one might be harder to track. If you have any maintenance done in your office such as painting the walls you can write that off. Don’t push things like trying to get a discount on your cable because you have a TV in your office though.

5. Travel. If you’re a small business you actually get to write off one business trip a year whether you really take one or not. You have to be incorporated to do this however, and it’s a way to get a deduction from taking a family trip. You get to claim at least one night of your trip as a shareholders meeting, and if you conduct any type of business at all you can claim other days as well. However, you won’t get away with claiming an entire cruise as a business trip unless you were hired by the cruise line so don’t even try.