The Basics Of Your Health Insurance You Must Know

Health insurance is one of the most complicated things that many of us have to deal with.  What’s covered?  What isn’t covered?  What’s in network? Out of network?  How much are my deductibles?  Do I have to call someone to get this or get something to see that doctor?  Put twenty people in a room together and ask them to talk about their insurance and chances are you’ll have twenty varying answers.

The temptation is to simply throw up ones hands and just give up trying to understand, and then hope for the best in the time between when you present your insurance card and when you get that bill from the provider.

I’m telling you, that’s a bad strategy.

Sick On A Trip

Earlier this summer, on one of our camping trips, my son became ill.  He developed a fever, a rash, was tired, and had a loss of appetite.  We controlled the fever, checked for ticks (we were camping), and waited a couple of days to see if things would pass.  They didn’t, so we knew that we had to find medical attention for him.

Since we were four hours away from home, coupled with the fact that it was a holiday weekend, we knew that our options were limited.  We were near a very small town with one doctor’s office, and that was pretty much it in terms of options.

Having read through my basic health plan information a few times during and after signing up, I knew that if we were going out of network, I was expected to contact the provider beforehand (if possible) and let them know.

I called and, since it was a holiday weekend, I had to leave a message. I let them know my son’s name, member ID, my name, my ID, and the facility and phone number we were taking him to.

We took him for care, and after being diagnosed with a virus, he started showing improvement within a couple of days.

I waited a few weeks and saw the claim information pop up.

Fully Denied.

Ugh.

The bill would have been about $130.

But, because I understood our plan, I had a feeling that this wasn’t right.  I called and spoke to someone in member services.  She took down some basic information, noted our location at the time, noted that I had called, but then saw that the claim had been entered as a standard ‘office visit’, where given the circumstances it needed to be classified as an urgent visit.

She resubmitted this and within 10 days, the claim was adjusted, and our cost was $40.

Which is exactly what I expected.

Had I not taken the time to understand a few of the basics, I would have probably missed the step where I was supposed to call and notify them of an out-of-network visit.  I also might have simply accepted that it was out of network and paid the full $130.

By understanding the basics, I was able to close a potential loophole that could have denied service, as well as argue my case for coverage.

While you can’t be expected to know every detail, there are things you should be able to answer about your plan.  For some reason, I picture Keanu Reaves in Speed asking “OK, hotshot, (read any question below).  What do you do?    What do you do?”

  1. What is your preventative coverage?  You should know if routine checkups, immunizations, and other visits are covered.
  2. Is preventative care required? Some insurance companies not only cover your preventative care, but they’ll entice you to take advantage of the checkups by form of lower deductibles or co-pays.
  3. What type of coverage do you have?  Do you have a PPO?  An HMO?  Another type of insurance?  You should know this as well as the basic implications tied to the type of plan.
  4. Are you tied to a provider?  We have an HMO so our coverage is tied to providers associated with a particular health care system.  This could be the case for many types.  If you know this, then any time you call a provider office, you can ask if they’re associated with your provider.
  5. What are your co-pays? Many insurance cards have this printed on the card.  If not, you should get a list of common co-pays associated with doctor visits, specialist visits, urgent care, emergency visits, and other visits.
  6. What is your deductible? If you have to pay a certain amount of your health care before insurance kicks in, you should know this amount, and also have a good idea where you stand.
  7. Where are you covered? Going back to earlier points, if you are associated with a provider, you should know where the limits of that coverage extend.
  8. What happens if you go outside of your provider network?  I associate this with ‘roaming’.  You can certainly get care elsewhere, just as you can get cell phone coverage outside of your network, but what will your insurance company do if you choose to do so?  Many times (as was the case with our claim), they will accept the claim if you can prove that you could not get care from the preferred providers in a reasonable fashion (we were 4+ hours away).

These are eight things that I came up with, off the top of my head, that will greatly benefit you and that I don’t think are too hard to learn, and that Keanu Reaves would be happy if you could answer.

Most insurance plans have a summary document, usually only a few pages long.  You’ll often have access to this when signing up, and I would say that it’s important to read that a couple of times.  It’s not the most exciting reading in the world, but it’s important.  It can save you time, money, and a whole lot of stress.

Readers, what level of knowledge do you have with your insurance plan?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Have You Heard Of Discount Brokers?

With the advent and growth of the Internet over the course of the past two decades, discount brokers have become ever more common. Discount brokers have opened the door to investing in stock to a wider swath of people than ever before. Indeed, with the broad availability of discount brokers in this day and age, nearly anybody with even a minimal amount of money to invest can afford to access the stock market.

In addition to being less expensive than a traditional broker, there is one primary distinction between the traditional derivation and a discount broker. A discount broker does not provide an investor with advice. Rather, an investor must do his or her own research and make his or her own decisions regarding the buying and selling of stock. Although this can lead to an overhaul of information, this also increases your chances of success.

People interested in this type of investment resource need to understand some of the essential elements associated with a discount broker. The following are tips to keep in mind when making your decision:

1. Online Platforms

A fundamental consideration to keep in mind when looking for a discount broker is the online platform provided for an investor. The online platform will be the portal used by an investor when he or she desires to buy and sell stock, to access real time information about the market and to conduct research. As a result this platform needs to reliable, easy to navigate and user friendly on all fronts.

2. Reduced Account Fees

A discount broker charges lower fees than the traditional alternative. There are differences between the fees charged from one discount broker to another. As part of making a selection, “shopping around” is always great advice in order to compare and assesse from one discount broker to another.

3. Analytical Capabilities

Because discount brokers do not provide advice to an investor, you absolutely must have access to reliable analytical data associated with a stock of interest. Although a number of reputable resources exist for this type of data, in the end it is important that the discount broker selected is able to provide an investor with comprehensive sound data to rely on.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How I Hope To Celebrate My Birthday

One of my favorite moments of summer was in June, my wife and I went to see Lionel Richie.  I’ve written about him before on this blog, and when my wife surprised me with tickets earlier in the year, it gave us something to look forward to.

As the concert date neared, it started getting a little buzz and it came out that the concert was also his birthday…and it was his 65th birthday, so a pretty nice milestone.

You always wonder if the event would be acknowledged, or if he’d prefer to just keep it private.  All of that was put to rest within a minute of him taking the stage when he yelled “GUESS WHAT??? IT’S MY BIIIIIIIRTHDAY!!!!!”

mb-2014--08birthdayOf course that received a ton of cheers and he then went on to celebrate and put on a great show.  I know that artists put on show after show, and each audience likes to think that the artist connects with their audience more than others, but the celebration of his birthday was one of the best concerts I’ve seen and you could tell he was having a blast.  Even one of the newspaper reviews the next day commented that the celebration seemed to give the concert a little something special.

Since then I’ve thought about what made it great, and there were two things that made his concert birthday celebration awesome:

  • He had fun – You could tell he was just enjoying the celebration, telling stories about growing older and things he’s seen through the years, and just keeping a genuine smile on his face.
  • He brought everyone else in on the fun – He wasn’t just enjoying himself because it was his birthday, he was enjoying himself more by making the audience enjoy themselves.  He fed off of it, the audience fed off that, and it just kept getting better and better.  He even went over curfew by 15 minutes or so (it’s an outside stadium with homes nearby), which at $1,000 per minute fine, worked out to a pretty good chunk of change (though for him it’s a drop in the bucket).  Still, as the clock went over, he said “I’m having so much fun, we’re going to keep on going!”

I’ve been to a lot of concerts and that was probably the best one I’ve been to.  Not because of the music (though that was awesome too) but because of the energy.

So, why am I writing this?  Oh, did I not mention…..IT’S MY BIIIIIRTHDAY TODAY!

And while I’m a bit younger than Lionel Richie, it’s a milestone as I’m hitting the big 40!

I wrote this in advance because I’m off camping, but I am planning on a good birthday, especially with my wife and kids, simply because I want to enjoy the day, the celebrations, and I want them to enjoy it, and let the fun feed off of each other!  One old singer taught an old man a lesson, and hopefully as you read this, I’m living the lesson learned!

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How Checking Our Grocery Bill Saved Us $14

My wife usually takes care of the grocery shopping.  On days when she does the shopping, I always come home and asked to see the bill.

It’s not because I’m checking up on her or that I’m questioning any of her choices, it’s just I have a pretty good eye for spotting errors.

And you’d be surprised how often I find them.

Just last week, I found a whopper that, had I not taken a look, would have cost us $14.

The Bill Seems High

My wife was talking about the grocery trip and how everything went (most notably, a worker from behind the deli counter offered my kids free ice cream…yum), when she commented that “the bill seemed pretty high”.

At $66, it was actually lower than usual, but it was also a smaller trip than most weeks, as they weren’t having great sales on many items we often stock up on, and we didn’t buy any meat or other ‘high priced’ items.

She showed me the bill, and I started looking through line by line when I noticed a line for $14 for cherries.

I incredulously asked her, “You spent $14 buying three-and-a-half pounds of cherries?”  We don’t usually buy cherries, even when they’re on sale, so this seemed crazy.

She ripped the receipt from my hand, looked, and said “No, I didn’t buy any cherries at all!”

What Fruit Most Closely Resembles A Cherry?

She started looking through the rest of the bill and noticed that there was no charge for another item that she had indeed purchased.

What fruit is small and red and could probably be mistaken for cherries by a rushed cashier?

Red grapes.

Red grapes were on sale for $0.99 per pound.  The cashier gave a quick glance, entered in the code for what he thought it looked like, and moved on.

Full Refund

My wife called the store (Meijer) and explained what had happened.  The person answering the phone apologized, gave my wife his or her name and logged it in a book, so that my wife can just go in, take the receipt, and get a refund.

The best part is that they said that they wouldn’t just give the difference, but that they’ll give us a refund for the full line item.

So, not only do we get the mistake corrected, we’ll also end up with free grapes.

All because we took the time to look through our bill.

Quite Frequent Though Less Costly

You might be wondering how often we find mistakes.  I’d say at least once per month.  Sometimes I’ll find that something appeared twice, only to find out that we only got one.  The dreaded double bar code scan.

Other times, we might find a missed store promotion that did not get applied, even though we purchased everything exactly as required.

Rarely does it work out anywhere near $14.  Usually it’s a mistake of a few dollars. I believe that the mistakes are honest mistakes.  I don’t think the cashiers have any interest in trying to overcharge or double charge.  I just think that most of the time they are going so fast trying to get through the many customers as quickly as possible that they make mistakes.

It’s our job as customers to make sure that we check for mistakes.  Ideally, we’d be able to catch the mistakes as they’re being rung up, so that my wife would have noticed the charge when the cashier entered it, but with two small children to manage, it’s not always possible.

So, if you can’t check in the store, make sure to check when you get home, otherwise it’s not the store making the mistake, it’s you!

Readers, what mistakes have you caught on your grocery or other store receipts?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Someone Has To Buy That New Car That You Buy Used

One of the things that I enjoy reading and have even made mention is that the best decision when it comes to buying a new car is to buy a used car.  This offers a few benefits to your bottom line, including that it will be less money, that you’ll let someone else handle the massive up front depreciation, and so on.  I’ll stop there as that’s not the purpose of this article (but here’s a great article to read if you want to know more).

I agree 100% that this is the best financial decision for money savings, but the fact is that not 100% of people can follow this advice.

Nope, there has to be someone that purchases that car the first time.

Every used car out there, whether it be a gently used car that’s as good as new, or a rusted out beater, was once new, and someone paid the ‘new car’ price.

Think about that.

Next time someone tells you that they’ve got their eye on a new car down at the dealer, maybe you should hold off before advising them to buy a used car instead.

After all, that could be your next used car, and someone has to buy it, right?  Maybe you offer to drive them right down to the dealer…and in return, they give you a call when they’re ready to sell!

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

If a Tree Falls in My Yard… Will Homeowners Insurance Cover It?

We all know that homeowners insurance protects your home and its contents, but what about outside your home? Are trees, landscaping, and outdoor furniture all covered under the same umbrella as the house itself? After all, a fallen tree or a smashed fence after a bad storm can be just as expensive to remedy as a broken window or damaged roof. How do you know what’s covered? Let’s take a look at some typical home insurance policies and see what they cover outside of the home.

Fallen trees cause millions of dollars in damage to homes every year. If a tree falls and damages your home, you’ll almost certainly be covered. Even if it’s your neighbor’s tree, just about any homeowners policy will pay for repair to your house caused by fallen trees or limbs. Most other structures such as detached garages or fences usually will be covered as well.

Note that not everything in your yard will be covered, however. If a tree falls and destroys a children’s play set or an above-ground pool, a standard home insurance policy might not pay for replacement or repair unless these items were specifically added to the policy in a rider. You can read more here.

But what about getting the fallen tree out the yard? If tree does damage a covered structure, your insurance will probably pay a limited amount towards tree removal. If a tree falls and damages nothing but the ground below it, you’re probably on the hook for the total cost of removing the tree or limb. The cost of tree removal is usually capped at around several hundred dollars, too. So if ten trees fall and one of them damages a covered structure, you might end up paying quite a bit out of your own pocket to have them hauled away.

Many homeowners policies also have liability coverage, so that if guests are injured in your yard you’ll be protected from lawsuits to a certain extent. Some policies specifically cover liability from dog bites. So if Fido bites a kid crossing through your yard, you won’t have to worry about being on the hook for excessive medical bills or other lawsuits. Be sure to read the fine print, however. Certain dog breeds that insurers consider overly aggressive, such as pit bulls and Rottweiler’s, will not be included in the dog bite liability clause.

Another thing that insurance companies won’t cover is liability for injuries from trampolines. Many companies will flat out refuse to insure homes that have a trampoline on the property. The reason is that they are so incredibly dangerous. In just 2009 alone, trampolines caused nearly 93,000 accidents which required a visit to the emergency room!

Read up on your homeowners policy to see exactly what kind of outdoor damage is covered. If you live in an especially forested area, make sure you have the right kind of coverage to protect your home. Given enough storms and bad weather, it’s only a matter of time before a tree falls.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.