Monday, December 7, 2009

New report has practical, real-world advice for coping with crush of medical bills

Families USA has put out a very good guide for people struggling with medical debts. The topic's bleak, but the advice can be critical.

In addition to the usual advice -- make sure the charges are correct, find out your appeal rights -- the 20-page booklet has good, real-world advice for folks who cannot afford to pay. It includes pointers on how to ask billing offices to write-off or forgive some of the bill, negotiate a lower rate, and what to ask for in a payment plan.

Other advice: Prioritize child support and income tax debts, since failure to pay can mean serious legal problems. Avoid adding medical debts to your mortgage, which puts your home at risk.

The guide looks at different types of bankruptcies, how to protect yourself if sued, whether money can be taken from your paycheck, and how to deal with bill collectors.

Insurance news, and lots of it. (Bonus: the strange case of the house-licking cows)

The New Yorker's Atul Gawande talks about a key part of health-insurance reform: Controlling health-care costs.

The L.A. Times has a good Q&A re: the legislation, including things like will you go to jail for not having health insurance. (A: Not likely.)

Insurance Journal reports that a Southern California accountant has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing more than $2m from a pet insurer.

Speaking of animals, a Tennessee man reported $100 in damage to his home from escaped cows licking his house. Really.

TheStreet.com talks about proposed health reforms from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Here in Washington, insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler is unhappy about a public standoff between health insurer Aetna and the University of Washington over rates paid to the university's several major health-care facilities. KING 5 has the story.