Many people with cancer receive a large number of medical bills and health insurance claims because treatment often lasts weeks, months, or longer. Setting up a system for tracking bills and payments and filing financial documents can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Keep your system simple so it is easy to find paperwork when you need it. And, your system will work best when you organize individual bills and other paperwork on a timely basis as they come in.
Common medical bills and health insurance documents
A good first step in keeping track of cancer-related financial documents is to keep detailed records about the cancer care and treatment provided to you. Tracking this information can help you organize and manage your medical bills and payments.
Consider tracking the following information about your appointments and bills:
Details about each appointment, such as the date, time, location, and which health care provider(s) you saw. Include any exams, tests, and/or procedures you had during that appointment.
The name and dose of each drug prescribed, which doctor prescribed each medication and when, where you filled the prescription, and any payments you made.
Copies of checks and credit card receipts for any medical co-pays and other health care costs
All bills, invoices, and statements from any health care provider
It is also helpful to keep all of your health insurance documents in one place. These might include:
A current copy of your medical insurance coverage or certificate of coverage (COC)
Insurance claims filed by you, your doctor, or your hospital
Records related to your insurer's process for approving care, such as referrals and prior authorization records
Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements from your insurance company that explain its coverage decision for each claim
Insurance reimbursements you have received
Any insurance claim rejections you have received and appeal letters you have written
How to organize information with a calendar
A paper or electronic calendar can be a helpful tracking tool. Use it to record every medical appointment, test, procedure, and prescription drug purchase on the day it happens. Your calendar will then become a full history that you can refer to for insurance claims and tax purposes.
Tracking information on paper or electronically
You can use a paper or electronic system for tracking and organizing your financial documents, including medical bills and insurance documents. The decision is up to you. The best system is one that you will use consistently.
With a paper system, it can be as simple as using the same notebook to record medical payments and tracking appointments. Add columns for the appointment date, doctor's name, amount paid, insurance claim status, and other important notes.
Electronic options including tracking this information in a spreadsheet on your computer or phone. There are different spreadsheet programs, ranging from simple to more complex with advanced features. An online tracking system reduces the chance your paperwork will get lost or damaged. It also allows you to quickly search, sort, and compare data and it can be easily shared.
In addition to spreadsheet applications, you can find online software or a template that will help you manage this type of financial information. Some software also provides templates for writing letters to appeal rejected insurance claims.
If you do decide to use a third party website or software for managing your medical information, review each one carefully. Some sites may charge a one-time or regular fee. And, be sure to consider how each company is set up to protect your data and privacy so that you feel comfortable that your personal medical and financial details are in a safe place.
People with Medicare have access to an online tool for storing and accessing personal information.
Create a filing system for medical bills
In addition to tracking your appointment details, create a filing system for all the documents you receive about your cancer care. This should include bills, invoices, statements, EOBs, and any other correspondence about your insurance coverage and financial aspects of your care.
You have a choice on whether to base your filing system on print documents or electronic versions. For print, get paper file folders and label different categories that make sense to you, such as by month, doctor, or other details. For electronic tracking, you can scan incoming paper documents and keep them on your computer or phone, using electronic file folders.
Talk with each doctor's office and your insurance company about how they usually send such financial documents, so you are clear on how bills and statements will be delivered to you. You can also ask if it is possible to get bills delivered in a specific way of your preference, such as via mail or email.
Finding help with organizing medical bills
Accurate and updated records are important in making sure your accounts are paid, that bills are accurate, for possible tax purposes (see below), and so you have clear information available if you want to appeal a coverage decision made by an insurer. But financial paperwork is often overwhelming at an already stressful time and complicated to understand. Consider asking a trusted loved one to help set up your tracking and filing system and keep it current. This is a common aspect of caregiving. It may help to set up a regular time with this person to talk through the latest documents and record them in your system.
In the United States, there is an option to hire someone to help. A health insurance claims assistant can provide professional help and advice for dealing with insurance claims, for a fee. A claims assistant typically files and tracks an unlimited number of claims, reviews medical bills for accuracy, and appeals rejected claims. They also contact health care providers and insurance companies to resolve problems with claims. Fees for this service vary widely. The Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals provides references to Claims Assistance Professionals in several states. Please note this link takes you to a separate, independent website.
For additional help in understanding your bills and financial options, ask your health care team if there is a financial counselor or oncology social worker you can talk with. You can also ask your employer's human resources department for assistance, such as asking whether there is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers help with insurance claims.
Some patient advocate groups and government agencies provide services with the financial aspects of cancer, including co-pay assistance and/or help with insurance claims. See the list of groups below (under More Information) or review this list of general financial resources for people with cancer.
Are there tax breaks for medical expenses?
Your medical expenses may reach or go beyond the U.S. Internal Revenue Service minimums for the year. If so, track all travel, meal, and phone expenses related to your medical care. You may be able to deduct a certain amount from your taxes. This would be the amount of your total medical expenses that are greater than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Talk with a tax professional to learn more.
CancerCare: Financial and Co-Pay Assistance
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: Consumer Assistance Program
HealthCare.gov: Appealing a Health Plan Decision
Patient Advocate Foundation: Case Management Services
Triage Cancer: Cancer Finances