Tuesday, May 26, 2015

7 Steps to Negotiating a Hospital Bill

I was recently contacted by someone about the posts I wrote regarding a hospital bill I received for $61,000 back in 2013. I have had many others ask me about that and I really feel like my experiences have helped people in a boat where they are having a hard time navigating the waters of excessive medical bills.
Last week, I received a bill from the hospital where I had my hernia repair surgery. I had this surgery last February and just received a bill. It cost me $25 out of pocket the day of the surgery and I haven't seen another bill since. I finally received the bill and it was $2,600, the remaining amount after insurance had paid their portion. I knew that they tried to charge my insurance upwards of $100,000 for my surgery and that the insurance paid more than they should have for this procedure, because I had been discussing the bill with my insurance when I started seeing the Explanation of Benefits come through in the mail. I wasn't happy with this amount. Knowing that my copay for a hospital visit was $500, and that they'd previously lowered my amount owed before, I decided to take matters into my own hands and write them a letter about what I was going to offer to get the account settled. This is what I learned and I hope it helps you as well.
1. Keep all explanation of benefits that come in the mail. We have a tendency to toss them in the trash because they say "this is not a bill!" but don't. This gives you documentation on what they attempted to charge the insurance and what the insurance actually paid. If the insurance personally only paid a small portion of the amount the hospital attempted to receive, this tells you that the amounts the hospital is attempting to charge are excessive. This allows you more wiggle room with negotiations.
2. Know what your insurance plan pays and hold them accountable to that. If you are only supposed to pay a $500 copay, then don't let them talk you into paying more if your plan says otherwise. Contact your insurance if needed to verify.
3. Ask to see your itemized bill for review. I always like to say that I am going to be sending this to a billing advocacy group that will be checking the charges against other hospital's current charges to see if there are any discrepancies. Often, just the threat of this of this will be more than enough motivation for the hospital to negotiate pricing, but I have actually sent my bills to a group before and it was incredibly worth it and helpful.
4. Do what you can to lower the amount, especially if you really can't afford to pay it back fully or it will break you financially to make payments of large amounts to the hospital. Put it in writing and plead your case to the billing department. I sent back my invoice and let them know that previously, I know they negotiated my bill down and I am prepared to pay $600 for the surgery I had. She replied back, pretty much immediately, that she accepted that settlement offer. If they don't agree, try again. Just because they are the hospital doesn't necessarily mean their "prices" or "bills" are set in stone.
5. If you can't pay the full amount, request a payment plan. Find an amount that won't break your bank and derail other financial plans you have. It's silly to pay all of your money for a future down payment on a house just to pay off a medical debt, especially if you can send smaller increments and still pay your debt. Once you come to an amount you can both agree with, find a payment amount that you can comfortably send in monthly, then send it in every month and don't forget!
6. Do not ignore it and hope it will go away. This is my suggestion for ALL debts and collections. It's better to work it out and come to an agreement that all parties can work with than just ignore it because you can't afford it.
7. Persistence is the key. It's annoying and time consuming to write letters and discuss these matters, but in the end, if it saves you $1,000s then it's worth it. I basically just saved myself $2,000 by arguing the amount. To me, the few hours it took me were totally worth it.
If you have any other stories, comments or suggestions, I am all ears!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Avery's Last Day!

Avery's last day of school was yesterday. She's had such a good year!!
Here are some things Miss Avery has learned this year...
-Avery has learned to write her name
-Avery recognizes all of her letters
-She has started really learning what the letter say. She will say, "Mommy, m-m-mommy. Mommy starts with M!"
-She has learned not just her numbers, but she has learned how to count
-She is starting to learn some shapes
This school has really put her in a place where she is going to know so much when she goes to kindergarden in a year. I have subbed in a couple preschool classes and they are learning things in her school now that they learn in actual preschool, and she still has a year of preschool to go.
She has made a lot of new friends and has flourished so much!

 Now, onto summer. Oh man, onto summer!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Woo Hoo They Fit Again!

So...this happened!
I've had these jeans for a long time. In January, I couldn't get them up my thighs, much less button them. Yesterday, I did! Now, I am not saying they are comfortable or that I would wear them out yet, but give me a couple more weeks...
In March, I talked about how I lost 22 pounds since Christmas. I am proud to say I am now down 30 pounds and two sizes!
I am very much enjoying this place I am at in my journey of changing my lifestyle. I have struggled with weight loss for almost five years and it's been difficult at times. I am not really sure what made this time different or what gave me renewed motivation. I think finding the right people (a nutritionist and a trainer) that taught me some good things from the beginning made a huge difference. I didn't feel like I was shooting in the dark and they made it very simple. No cleanses, no removal of a certain food group from my diet, no "cheat days," no crazy workout regimes. Just eating better and working out effectively and consistently.
I have been working out at the YMCA for over a year now, and my trainer I saw in January, Bob, has been telling me for weeks, "You know you get to see me three times for free, when are you going to come see me again?" I set up an appointment last Friday and we reviewed my workout routine and we were able to tweak a few things to keep going on my journey. My goal right now is to make my muscles as strong as can be so they can work for me and keep my metabolism high. I have a journal I keep at the gym, now, that helps me keep track of when I work out, how much weight I am lifting on the machines and how long I do cardio. I am up to 35-40 minutes on the elliptical at a 20 incline and 39 resistance. My heart rate is in the170s for at least 30 minutes, three times per week. I have a weight training circuit I complete each day, three times per week. My eating hasn't been as clean, but I still continue to lose weight and inches. I could probably do a strict calorie count again for a week or two to lose a few more pounds quickly, but right now, what I am doing is working and I am happy with my progress.
Here are a few more tips I can offer you:
1) Stop drinking sugar!
Really, a lot of us probably consume more sugar and calories in our drinks than we think. You could down 500-1000 in sodas, creamer, and sweet tea without blinking an eye. Switch to tea sweetened with Stevia, diet soda, or other lessor-calorie options.
2) Go to the gym, even if you don't feel like it.
There were only a couple of days I really didn't feel like going to the gym and I just didn't go. I went the next day, though. There were some days I literally got on the elliptical for 8 minutes and just got off and left. I went back the next day. Most of the time, I knew if I just did it, I would be happy I did. And I was. When I didn't feel like it, I just went the next day. But I didn't go days and days without going, because the second I let myself slip for too long, it would be too hard to get back into the habit.
3) If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
I could write a whole post about this is almost every area of life, because I have failed many times because of my lack of a plan. So, here are ways you can plan to be successful at weight loss, because any of these NOT being done could be used as excuses, and I didn't need any more of those!
-I had plenty of workout clothes to wear. If my workout clothes were dirty, I wouldn't go, so I made sure to have plenty of socks, pants, and shirts ready so I could get up, throw them on, and go.
-Have plenty of great music or books available to listen to. I would look forward to going to the gym because I spent a few dollars here or there to get music I wanted or a book to listen to. I would even watch Netflix on my phone! And have a couple extra pairs of headphones. They are cheap and it's a pain to get to the gym and not have them for me to use. I almost wouldn't work as hard if I didn't have something to distract me! 
-Know what your goal is at the gym and it shouldn't be to LOSE WEIGHT. It should be specific - "My goal is to keep my heart rate above 160 for 30 minutes today." "I will do 100 crunches today." Know what your plan of attack is for that day when you go and keep altering it every day.
-Make sure and have at least five go-to foods in your house at all times that you could eat if you had no other options. If all you have is chips and Little Debbies, no matter what your self-discipline, you will eat them.
4) Don't make changes to your diet you can't sustain for more than two weeks.
Not eating carbs for two weeks will do nothing for your weight loss goals, except have you yo-yo back and forth with weight. You shouldn't spend every moment of your life thinking about all the food you wish you could eat, but won't let yourself eat. There are so many alternative options for food and diabetic candies and sweets, there should be something you could find as an alternative for bad food choices.
5) Realize it's a marathon, not a sprint!
Always think to yourself...it might take a year to get where you want to be, but that year has to start somewhere!! In the course of 365 days, a few bad days won't derail you completely. Just think of things as a goal that will take some time. It helps you keep things in perspective when have worked out for two weeks, but haven't lost 45 pounds and 5 sizes.
Keep it going!! Find your motivation and more power to you!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Breakfast with Mom

One of the reasons I love my job is that I get to participate in things like this....Breakfast with Mom at Avery's school!
Avery gets so excited when we get to go with her to school. It's so fun to be a part of it.

Here we are last year...
What a year can do!!
I love the craft the had us do...it's one I will keep forever!!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

My Older Home and Why I LOVE IT!

I love my house. I really do. But my house, as with most old houses, needs a lot of updating. Don' get me wrong - this house has SO much character. Character that I love. Like these great lights. I love these lights.
Or these black lava rock columns that match the fireplace.

Or what my kids call "the castle dungeon hallway" because of these yellow, pointy lights that shine all eery at night.

But look at this hallway and tell me you've EVER seen a hallway as cool as this one?

My house is full of these old, ornate light fixtures and wall sconces. Most of them aren't worth saving, but these in Avery's room need a good cleaning and are salvageable, just because, what little girls room is really complete without crystals on your mirror?

And a huge pink bathtub? What girl gets that? (It's so retro but I still love it)

This is a chandelier hanging in my bathroom. It gets so dirty so quickly from dust and hairspray, but I would hate to lose it, it's so neat.

And this neat chandelier in my dining room. It needs a new paintjob, but I love the shape.

I am on the fence about these doors. They are bigger than most front doors and really heavy, and those big brass handles are crazy. But I love the way they look with the house.

A few things I am ready to be done with are things like this bathroom...
There were so many patterns going on in this house the first time I saw it. it was unbelievable.
Blue and white and gold tile with black and white marble counter tops...
Three separate variations of brown, orange and while, yowza.
Complete with a brown toilet and saloon doors!
I love all of the closet space and built ins, but gotta love brass pulls! (WHICH ARE EVERYWHERE). I think once I counted that between the kitchen and all four bathrooms., two built in desks, and all of the built in drawers and cabinets, I have over 120 pulls in this house to replace!
My house also has five pocket doors, which I LOVE. But what is this door missing in my master bedroom? Oh right. A LOCK.
And then, there are the really cool, but need to be replaced, doorknobs. I have 8 of these that need to get replaced!
Older homes aren't for everyone, trust me. As a Realtor, I am drawn to older homes because I just love that they are so different and unique. My house is the coolest house I've ever seen and I wish everyone else loved these older homes as much as I do! But it's hard to compete with brand new. But my bedrooms are the size of most masters, if not bigger. I have two master rooms in my house and all bedrooms have access to a bathroom. So, all in all, I love it enough to make it work.
What about you, do you love older homes that need some tender loving care or do you prefer state of the art?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

NEWSIES!!! Pictures and a Review

We decided a few months back to go see Newsies - and the day finally came!
Just to brush up on my Newsies facts and to let Sophia get familiar, we watched the movie last night. Not that I needed a brush up, I still had most of the movie - songs and choreography included - memorized, even after 23 years.

 First of all, it was at ATT Performing Arts Center, not at Fair Park as we originally thought, This was my first time to watch a show here and it was beautiful. It is an opera house so it is situated a little different than Fair Park. It's very tall and narrow but has such nice sound.

I am so blessed to have a child that loves musicals as much as I do. It's so much fun to go to these things with her!!

We started by going out to eat at Pei Wei!! Such a nice treat.

Sophia had a great time and so did we!!
We were able to stay afterwards and have a Q & A with a few of the cast members. It was nice to hear about the show and then get a close up of the stage!

Ok - now on to the review!!
This show is different from the movie. The story line is a bit different. There are some characters who are changed and are portrayed different than they are in the movie. But, in a good way. There are a few added songs that you won't recognize, and they were OK. But the dancing....
Oh, the dancing.
The dancing, choreography, set design, and level of talent in this production is the best I've seen. And I say that with great hesitance as Wicked is my favorite musical. But these guys and their dancing abilities were better than in the movie. And that's hard, because those guys in the movie are awesome.
First and foremost - the set design of this show was absolutely the best I've ever seen. The way they blocked everything, the quickness of set changes and how they worked it into to the show seamlessly, it was all amazing. They added levels of technology that I've never seen done before that were incredible. They had moveable towers that could separate and had screens that would roll up and down to be the backdrops. The cast ran up and down those towers the entire show. It was amazing.
Secondly, the singing was great. It's not hard to sing better than Christian Bale (no offense, Batman) or Doogie's best friend, but they tried very hard to make the songs sound like what the audience had come to love. I hate when musicals change things up and do different renditions and these guys didn't. The accents, the style, it was all the same as the movie.
The dancing was what really set this show apart. It's unbelievable that these guys do this day after day. The level of energy was outstanding. You left there completely satisfied - you cheered and clapped the whole time. I am so glad we went and greatly enjoyed it!!
Here is a number from the Tony awards, just to get a little taste!