How to Correct Medical Billing Errors

medical billing errors

medical billing errors

Over ten million Americans with employer health coverage spend 10% or more of their overall income on out-of-pocket medical expenses—and that’s with insurance. With the high cost of healthcare, it is worth it to take a closer look at every medical bill before paying. If your medical bill says you owe a certain amount, don’t take that number at face value. Proving you don’t owe as much as the bill indicates can take some time and effort but it could be worth it in the end.

The best way to ensure you are not getting overbilled for medical care is to keep all of your medical and insurance paperwork organized. Keep all documents you receive concerning your medical care. You should receive an itemization of services to identify exactly what your provider is billing your insurance for. You will also receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurance company explaining why they can or cannot cover the services of your provider. You can compare these two documents to ensure your provider and your insurance company match in their estimation of your contribution.

If you are comparing your EOB with the itemized bill from your practitioner and something doesn’t seem right, there are four main ways you can investigate your charges:

1. Comprehensively Understand Your Benefits

Understanding what your insurance did or did not cover and why will help you evaluate if the bill is correct. Re-read your benefits plan, talk to your HR department for a refresher on your coverage, or call your insurance company to get help in understanding your bill. Know what your deductible is and what your insurance should be covering to make sure this is reflected in your EOB.

2. Know how to Spot Incorrect Coding

Every medical service has a corresponding code that tells your insurance company how you are being billed. If a medical code is just one number off, you could be billed for thousands of dollars more for a more complicated procedure than what you really received. Usually a quick Google search will help you identify what kind of service the code stands for. Healthcare Bluebook is also a great resource to identify codes and provide an estimated price for the service in your area.

3. Be on the Lookout for Upcoding

When a provider charges a patient for a higher level of service or equipment than was provided, it is called upcoding. While this can be the result of human error, it can also be a sign of medical billing fraud. When you are checking the codes on your itemized bill, pay attention to the level of care indicated. If you feel that the level of care indicated is not appropriate, you should question why your provider decided to bill you in this way.

4. Look for Unbundling of Charges

Bundling is when a group of services for a single procedure are entered under one code so that the patient pays the provider a single payment. Unbundling is when a provider charges the patient individually for different services or if the provider charges you for the individual services on top of the bundled code. Unbundling usually results in higher charges. For the average person, picking out unbundling practices on a bill can be hard. If anything seems unclear or too high to you, ask your provider to give you an itemized bill that provides clear explanations of the codes. You can also ask your insurance company to explain what services are included in a bundled service.

If anything seems off after looking over your bill and you think you are being overcharged, it is time to talk to your provider. Stay calm and professional when questioning the billing error. More often than not, a coding mistake is the result of simple human error. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask for action to be taken and any documents you will need to dispute your bill. Your medical records can help you compare what services your doctor says you received and what the bill says you received.


When a medical provider won’t budge on a bill that you feel is erroneous, you can contact your insurance company’s anti-fraud department to help you dispute the charges. If the process is becoming overwhelming and difficult to handle on your own, consider seeking outside assistance from an attorney. Medical billing errors can cost unsuspecting patients thousands of dollars. It is well worth the time and headache to ask the important questions to make sure you are being charged properly AND for the services you received.

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Is an FHA Loan Right for Me?

FHA loan

The standard mortgage loan down payment of 20% can be a huge sum of money to many prospective homeowners. If this big number is the main reason you have put off buying a home, consider applying for an FHA loan. An FHA loan will help you finance the purchase of your home without having to put down a huge down payment.


FHA loans prevent would-be home owners from getting priced out of the real estate market.

An FHA loan is backed by the Federal Housing Administration, an agency of the U.S. government. The FHA does not lend you money; instead, they insure the loan used to purchase your home. In the event that you are unable to make payments on your mortgage, the FHA will step in to pay your lender. This makes it less risky for lenders to grant mortgages to buyers with lower down payments or poor credit scores. As long as your credit score is 580 or higher, you can qualify for an FHA loan with a 3.5% down payment. If your credit score is between 500 and 579, your FHA loan will require a 10% down payment.

What You Need to Know (Before You Apply)

fha loan

1. You need a consistent income.

While FHA loans don’t have a set minimum or maximum income requirement, you must prove that you earn a steady income. Pay stubs or yearly tax returns can help you prove that you are a reliable earner. Bonus points if you’ve worked in the same field or for the same employer for a couple of years.

2. Heavy debt can hurt your approval chances.

The FHA is unlikely to approve your application if you already have a lot of existing debt—like auto loan(s), credit card debt, and student or personal loans. An FHA loan officer will analyze your income to determine what percent of your monthly income goes to paying down your debts. As a general rule of thumb, your mortgage shouldn’t be more than 31% of your income before taxes. Additionally, your combined debts should not be more than 41% of your income.


An FHA loan officer won’t approve you for a mortgage if you’ll be paying half your salary toward debts.

3. Lenders favor borrowers with credit scores above the 580 minimum.

While 580 is the minimum credit score the FHA requires to insure your loan with a 3.5% down payment, some of the lenders the FHA works with do have higher credit score requirements. For most lenders, you will have a better chance with a credit score of at least 640.  If your credit score isn’t quite there yet, it can be worth it to take the time to improve your score before applying for an FHA loan.

4. Be realistic about your buying power.

There are limits on how much money you can borrow with an FHA loan. These limits are based on real estate prices in the area(s) where you want to buy a home. If you can afford to buy a huge house with a swimming pool, you likely don’t need an FHA loan to begin with. Keep in mind that FHA loans aren’t just for single-family homes. A smart investment move is to purchase a multi-family housing property with up to four units. Rental income can pay for your monthly mortgage payment (and sometimes more). FHA requirement for purchasing multi-family homes is that you must live in the property for at least a year.

5. You will need mortgage insurance.


Mortgage insurance is an insurance policy for lenders in case the borrower defaults on the loan.

If you have an FHA loan, you must have mortgage insurance. The up front premium for mortgage insurance will be part of your closing costs and is approximately 1.75% of the total loan amount. In addition to the 1.75% upfront cost, you will also have a monthly mortgage insurance premium. This will typically read as mortgage insurance premium (MIP) on your FHA loan statements. Mortgage insurance costs between 0.5% and 1% of your loan value each year. This calculates to ~ $120 a month for a home loan of $195,000.

If you are trying to decide if an FHA loan is right for you, sit down and look at the numbers to make sure you can afford a mortgage payment, mortgage insurance, the down payment, and closing costs. If you think your budget is ready for homeownership, an FHA loan can be a great way to make your dreams a reality!

How to Tackle Debt as a Married Couple

nj debt relief

Marriage is about two people joining their lives together. Making the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone also means sharing financial decisions and taking care of debts together. Both parties may be entering the marriage with student loans, credit card debt, or personal loans. While in New Jersey you are not legally responsible for debt your spouse accrued before your marriage, you will become a financial team with your spouse. This means helping each other tackle debts both from before and after you say “I do.” Here are some tips on tackling marriage debt and subsequently reducing the financial stress in your relationship.

While ideally you should enter into a marriage with a full understanding of your spouse’s financial situation, it is never too late to sit down and have the money talk. Overcoming debt together requires open, honest communication about what you bring to the marital table financially. Don’t just talk about your debts, talk about your goals, too. What will paying off this debt allow you to do as a couple? Setting financial goals together will allow you to both motivate each other and hold each other accountable.

It’s important to keep in mind that you are in this together. After marriage, individual debt becomes “our debt.” Couples who have the most success tackling debt together tend to face their financial situation as teammates. Focus less on who brought more debt to the table and more on how each of you can contribute towards the goal of paying down the debt. Instead of only focusing on your debt individually, you will be able to stretch your money farther. Paying off debt when you’re working with two incomes will be easier than doing it alone.

Learning how to budget for two people (or more if you have children) will be very important to paying down your marriage debts. Don’t assume you and your spouse are on the same page about sticking to a specific budget. Sit down and determine how much money is coming in and out of the household on a weekly and monthly basis. You should both have a good understanding of your living expenses, debts, and financial goals. Be honest with your spouse about any financial difficulties you might be facing and see how you can fit this into your budget as a couple. After you know what your shared budget is, you will be able to come up with a realistic plan to pay off your debt.

Once you have a budget in place and a plan to pay off your debts, make sure you keep the conversation going. Check in with each other to make sure the budget you set is still in line with your financial realities and that you are making progress towards your goals. Like marriage, paying off debt is a long-term commitment that requires a lot of dedication and flexibility. Be patient with yourself and your partner as you take on the task of ridding yourselves of debt.

Make tackling debt together part of your goals as a couple. Financial difficulties are the leading cause of marital stress. If you have been struggling to pay down your debts and it is creating a strain within your marriage, it may be time to seek outside help. Veitengruber Law offers debt solution services to help you manage your debt and get back on track to financial health. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free consultation.

5 Tips for Talking to Your Parents About Retirement

retirement

Many adult children eventually find themselves switching roles with their aging parents. Whereas you were once the child in need of guidance, your parents gradually seem to need your help more and more. Suddenly, you realize that you’re the one with concerns about your parents’ health and finances. If you are concerned about your parents’ retirement plans – you’re not alone. Studies show that approximately 26% of Americans ages 50 to 64 don’t have any kind of retirement savings. If your parents are facing retirement with no plan, it’s not too late to intervene. Here are some tips for opening a dialogue with them about retirement options.

1. Be Honest, But Gentle

Ambushing your parents with a bunch of questions is definitely not the best way to start a healthy conversation. Be direct, but give them time to prepare for your chat. Tell them you are worried about their retirement plans and ask when would be a good time to talk. Start by getting an idea of whether or not your parent shares your concerns. If they do, these concerns will be a good place to start a conversation. If not, get prepared to make your argument as respectfully as possible.

2. Don’t Lecture; Ask Questions

The important thing to keep in mind is that this is a two-way conversation. Lecturing your parent about what he/she should or shouldn’t be doing is not likely to lead to anything productive. Ask your parent lots of questions. Do they have any savings? What do they expect their retirement expenses to be? Do they have any debt? These questions can open a dialogue and give you a better understanding of how prepared they are for retirement. Ask to see documents if they have them and go over the information together so you both know all the details.

3. Be Realistic About Your Ability to Help

Some parents assume their adult children will be able to care for them in their later years. Be honest about your ability to help them in the future. If you are not prepared to provide housing, care, or financial assistance, now is the time to make them aware of this. Keep in mind that helping a retired parent doesn’t have to involve fully supporting them forever. Even putting some of your money aside into an emergency fund for your parent(s) could be quite helpful.

4. Let Them Make Their Own Choices

Ultimately, the retirement choices your parents make are theirs and theirs alone. As much as you may want to intervene and do what you think is best, you have to respect the fact that these decisions are theirs to make. You can provide them with as much information as you possibly can to help them make an informed decision about their financial future, but you cannot dictate their choices. Be patient and understanding.

5. Keep the Conversation Going

Talking to your parents about their retirement plans is not a once and done deal. This is likely a lifelong conversation that you will need to have repeatedly as your parents get older and their financial circumstances continually change. Creating an open dialogue will make both of you feel more comfortable voicing your concerns when they come up over the years. Check in with your parents every once in a while to ensure that they are still on track with their retirement goals.

Where your parents are at financially when they retire is the result of decades worth of financial decisions and life choices. There is no way for you to turn back the clock and reverse everything for them. However, starting a dialogue now about money and retirement can help your parents prepare for life in their golden years.

The Importance of Life Insurance in NJ Estate Planning

nj estate planning

If you have people relying on you, no doubt you have spent some time thinking about how to protect them in the event that something happens to you. In order to create a solid estate plan, life insurance should be a component of providing security for your loved ones even after you’re gone. Most life insurance policies fall into two categories: term life insurance and whole life insurance. How do you know which life insurance plan is best for you?

  • Term life insurance is only in effect for a specified period of time.
  • Whole life insurance covers you until death no matter when that is.

You’ll pay lower premiums for term life insurance than for whole life insurance. Other things to consider when selecting a life insurance policy include:

1. How much coverage do you need?

The end goal of term life insurance is to substitute the income you would have provided your family with. If you live past the coverage period of the policy, you receive nothing. Most policies cover for 10, 20, or 30 years. The premium (payment) for a term life policy is static throughout the life of the policy and is based on your age, health conditions, and lifestyle. Regarding term life insurance, the insurance company is betting that you will outlive the policy and they will not have to pay anything to your beneficiaries. Hence the lower premiums.

2. What kind of payments can you afford?

Whole life policies, on the other hand, are more complex. Because there is an absolute value and guaranteed payout for every policy, premiums are much more expensive. Insurance companies cannot gamble on whether or not they will have to pay out for your policy—they know they will have to.

3. How is your general health?

4. Do you make relatively smart lifestyle choices?

5. Do you want the option to borrow from your insurance policy?

Often, a complete health and wellness exam is required before an insurance company will issue a whole life policy. With whole life policies, part of the money you pay in premiums will go directly toward the value of the policy itself. This is your money. If you cancel the policy, you would still get some money back. While it will diminish the death payout of the policy, you can even borrow against a whole life policy.

6. What is your relationship status?

7. How much debt do you have?

If you are single, debt-free, and dependent-free, you probably don’t need life insurance at all. For most of us, this isn’t the case. Ask yourself what problems may arise if you were to die today. For instance, if you still have 20 years left on your mortgage, you might want to consider a term life insurance policy for 20 years so you know your mortgage will always be covered. On the other hand, if you have a lifelong dependent who requires constant care, setting up a whole life policy to cover their long-term care is probably the better choice.

8. How old are you?

Some people decide to invest in both a life and a term life insurance policy. When you’re younger, you may not be in the financial position (or have the need) to pay the premiums for whole life insurance. Many life insurance companies allow you to convert your policy from term to whole life as your circumstances change and as you age. Your new premiums would be based on your age when you convert. You may have to submit to a new medical exam, but by converting, you can benefit from lower premiums when you are younger while still putting money toward (what will become) a whole life policy to cover you later in life.

Estate planning, and life insurance in particular, can seem like intimidating tasks, but they don’t have to me. Veitengruber Law offers long-term planning guidance for all stages of life. We believe in utilizing personalized strategies to help our clients protect themselves and their loved ones. Schedule your free consultation to discuss all of your estate planning concerns.

Getting Savvy About Your Student Loans

student loans

You did it! You got the degree, graduated college, and are ready to branch out into your career. Graduation is a time to look forward to your bright future after years of hard work. But it’s also worth taking a look back—especially at your student loans. Many college students graduate without really knowing how much they owe, when payments are due, or even who they owe. How long will these loan payments be in your life? Organizing your student loan debt is a big first step towards your bright future after graduation. Here are six steps you can take to get on top of your student loan debt.

1. Who do you owe?

Are your loans federal or private? This is a good time to figure that out. Most college students have some kind of federal student loan debt. Go to studentloans.gov and enter your FAFSA information to see what loans you have and to find the government-hired company that services the loan. This will be the company you contact for all future interactions concerning your loan.

If you have private student loans this can be a little more difficult to track, especially if you weren’t exactly the world’s most organized filer when you were 17 years old. Your loan(s) also could have been sold to a completely different company than you initially used. In these instances, your college admissions office should be able to lend a helping hand. Your alma mater should have a copy of any loan agreements with your records that can tell you who your loan servicer is. Your credit report can also help you determine information about any private loans.

2. How much do you owe?

This is really a two-fold question: What is the amount you initially borrowed and what is the current amount of principal you owe? If you have been making some payments towards your loan, it is important to find out if these payments went towards the principal of your loan or if they went towards interest. Federal student loan balances are frequently not up to date, so contact the lender directly for the true amount of your loan. Private student loans should be up to date with your most recent statement, but it never hurts to make direct contact if you have any questions about what you owe and what you’ve already paid.

3. What is the interest rate?

Knowing which loans have higher interest rates can help you determine which loans should take priority as you begin repaying your debt. All federal loan interest rates after 2006 are fixed, meaning the rate remains the same over the duration of the loan. Private student loans as well as federal loans taken out prior to 2006 may have variable interest rates. Find out how often the rate changes and if there is a cap on how high the rate can go. If you have an unreasonably high interest rate, it is likely due to a poor credit score when you applied for the loan. Ask us how to refinance your student loan!

4. What are my payment options?

Your lender should be able to tell you the estimated payoff dates of your loans which can help you establish a payment plan that works for you.

  • Federal loan monthly payments will automatically calculate based on a standard 10-year repayment plan. If you cannot afford these payments, there are many income-driven repayment plans that can allow you to make smaller payments more in line with your budget. It’s important to understand any special conditions of these plans and how smaller payments may impact your loan balance.
  • Private loans are much less flexible when it comes to payment options. Review your loan agreement. Most private loans will spread out payment equally month by month for the duration of the loan. If you are struggling to pay back your private student loans, reach out to your lender to discuss payment alternatives. They would much rather you be making smaller payments than none at all.

Student loans will be part of your financial reality until you pay them off. It can be daunting to think about paying back this debt while you’re still establishing yourself professionally, finding a place to live, and making your mark on the world. Don’t panic! Answering the above questions can help you create a plan of action to pay off your debt and get back to planning for your bright financial future. If ever in doubt, reach out to Veitengruber Law. We can help you make sense of your loan repayment options.

What the Equifax Breach Means for Consumers and How to Take Action

The Federal Trade Commission recently reached a settlement with Equifax over a data breach that has impacted around 147 million Americans. The popular credit monitoring agency admitted to a leak that included social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and credit card information. Nearly half of all adults in the United States have been affected and are therefore eligible to file a claim in the settlement to receive compensation from Equifax.

What does the Equifax breach mean for you?

The first thing you should do is check to see if your information has been impacted by this breach. On the official Equifax Data Breach Settlement website, you can enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number to see if your data was part of the breach. Make sure you are using the official, government approved website before entering any personal information. If you determine that your data was indeed breached, you have a few things to consider. The settlement includes three options for compensation:

– A one-time payment of up to $125

– 10 years of free credit monitoring services

– A one-time payment of up to $20,000 if you can prove you spent time or money on identity theft services due to the data breach

In order to receive any of the above compensations, you must fill out the application on the website by January 22, 2020. You can also choose to opt out of the settlement. In order to officially opt out, you must formally exclude yourself by November 19 of this year.

It is important to consider how this breach could impact you before you decide on a settlement option. Despite the low payout amount, consumers should not take this data breach lightly. Once your private, identifying information has been leaked, it can spread indefinitely. Data hackers can sell and re-sell your information forever. If your information is actively being used, $125 is not even close to enough money to cover the cost it will take to repair and protect your finances. Equifax has allotted $425 million for financial compensation—meaning actual, per person payments will likely be much less than the $125 listed. Early applicants will have a better chance of getting the full amount.

Because of this, financial advisors are suggesting that consumers opt for the free credit monitoring or exclude themselves from the settlement all together. Credit monitoring and identity theft services could serve you much better than $125 in the unfortunate event that your information is being sold on the dark web. Opting out of the settlement would allow you to sue Equifax as an individual, giving you more legal power to recuperate your financial losses in the event of a significant identity theft situation. Additionally, if your information has been seriously compromised and you have experienced significant financial loss due to identity theft, it is important to speak with a NJ lawyer who has experience with identity theft.

The one thing you can and should do right away in response to the Equifax data breach is to start practicing better cyber hygiene. Hackers look for more than just social security numbers and credit card information. Oversharing other personal information can be just as costly online. To protect yourself from identity theft online, these three steps can help keep your information secure:

1. Social Media: Make sure all of your social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) are private so the only people who can see your information are those you choose to connect with. Even if your account is private, carefully consider what you share. Hackers can use your hometown, your birthday, your employment history, and other pieces of information commonly shared on social media platforms to acquire your private data.

2. Data Check: Google your name and city and see what pops up. If your full name, address, e-mail, or other personal information appears, this should make you wary about sharing additional information online. The more free information a hacker has access to, the easier it is for them to assume your identity to gather critical data about you, such as your social security or credit card number(s.)

3. Passwords: Get into the habit of changing all of your online passwords regularly and never use the same password twice. If a hacker is able to breach one account, they will try the same password over and over again. This can be disastrous for those who use the same password repeatedly.

With the global transition to online platforms, the way we protect our personal information and financial data has to change. Unfortunately, events like the Equifax data breach are becoming more and more common. Learning how to protect yourself and your personal information from hackers could save you a lot of time, money, and emotional distress. Minimizing the amount of personal information available online can be your first defense against cyber hackers.

 

 

Should You Buy a Fixer-Upper?

fixer upperWith the success of popular HGTV shows like Fixer Upper and the prominence of DIY house projects, purchasing a fixer-upper is a common dream for some potential home buyers. Fixer-upper properties are often lower-priced while offering the opportunity to greatly increase the value of the home far beyond what the buyer paid for it. At the same time, fixer-upper properties can sometimes be more work than people think they will be. The final product may not be worth the time, effort, and money it took to get there. So how can you tell if buying a fixer upper is the right move for you?

A lot of factors go into determining if the fixer-upper you are looking for is a good investment. Fixer-uppers can offer ample opportunity for creativity, personalization, and savings. But they can also come with costly renovations, increased risk, and a monopoly on your time. Ultimately, whether or not you should buy a fixer-upper comes down to you and your unique circumstances as a home buyer. Here are some ways to decide if you have what it takes to buy a fixer-upper:

1. Are You Ready For the Work?

Doing all the work needed to bring your vision for a fixer-upper to life is time consuming and stressful. It is a huge undertaking even for the savviest DIY enthusiast. There is a reason many home buyers will spend the extra money for a newly renovated and updated home. The price tag of a fixer-upper might not seem worth it after you calculate the cost, time, and labor you will have to put into the home after purchase.

The commitment required of your time and energy is no small order. If you’ll be doing the renovations yourself, you need to be up to the physical task. If you are hiring professionals for the renovations, you will still need to be on site regularly and be able to take the time to shop for materials and appliances. The work can quickly become overwhelming, so make sure you are prepared.

2. Are You Connected?

When it comes to home renovations, hiring the right people can make or break a project—and your bank account! Time is money with contract work. Do you know trustworthy professionals to help you achieve your vision? Knowing architects, contractors, project managers, and other people in the construction business can be a major leg forward for your project. If you do not know anyone personally, ask trusted friends or family if they know any reliable project managers or general contractors. These professionals can make the renovation process more efficient and cost-effective for your bottom line.

3. Where Will You Live?

Are you prepared to live in a construction zone for months on end? Alternatively, if your renovations don’t allow you to live on site (if you’re gutting your bathroom, for instance), are you financially prepared to maintain two residences simultaneously? Make sure you look into all of your options. If a close friend or family member has room for you nearby, you could save money by bunking with them throughout the reno project. Finding an economical rental is also a good option if you cannot live in your new property while it is being renovated.

4. Do You Have the Vision?

Sure, it looks easy when Joanna and Chip Gaines do it on HGTV, but bringing a housing vision into reality isn’t something everyone is capable of doing. Getting a realistic mental image of how you want your home to look and then explaining that vision to the professionals helping you can be difficult. Some creative preferences and ideas can get lost in translation, leaving you with something you didn’t exactly want. A lot of creativity goes into renovating a home. Make sure you have thought through your ideas before you sign the dotted line for a fixer-upper.

A fixer-upper can be a fantastic investment opportunity for potential homebuyers. As with any real estate transaction, there are a lot of details and complex contracts involved in buying and fixing up an outdated home. Veitengruber Law is a full-service real estate law office with experience in all areas of contract review, real estate representation, and closing services. We can help ensure you are protected and supported as you purchase your dream home.