Health Insurance and Financial Assistance for the Cancer Patient

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Keeping records of insurance and medical care costs

It can be hard to keep track of all the bills, letters, claim forms, and other papers that begin flowing into your home after a cancer diagnosis. But keeping careful records of medical bills, insurance claims, and payments helps families manage their money better and lower their stress levels. Some families already have a system for tracking their finances and records and only need to expand it and create new files. Others may have to come up with a plan to handle all of the paperwork. One method is to keep a simple notebook with tabs for each month. It’s an easy way to track bills, insurance, Explanation of Benefits forms, and payments.

Record-keeping is also important for those who wish to take advantage of the deductions available in filing itemized tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has information and free publications about tax deductions for cancer treatment expenses (see the “To learn more” section). These rules change from time to time, so the IRS is the best source for current information.

Keep records of the following:

  • Medical bills from all health care providers – write the date you got the bill on each one
  • Claims filed, including the date of service, the doctor, and the date filed
  • Reimbursements (payments from insurance companies) received and explanations of benefits (EOBs)
  • Dates, names, and outcomes of calls, letters, or emails to insurers and others
  • Medical costs that were not reimbursed, those waiting for the insurance company, and other costs related to treatment
  • Meal and lodging expenses
  • Travel to and from doctor’s appointments, treatments, or the hospital (including gas, mileage, and parking for a personal car; and taxi, bus, medical transportation, or ambulance)
  • Admissions, clinic visits, lab work, diagnostic tests, procedures, and treatments
  • Drugs given and prescriptions filled

Here are some ideas to help you with record-keeping:

  • Decide who in the family will be the record-keeper or how the task will be shared.
  • Get the help of a relative or friend, if needed. This may be especially important for people who are single or who live alone.
  • Set up a file system using a file cabinet, drawer, box, binders, or loose-leaf notebooks.
  • Review bills soon after getting them and note any questions about charges.
  • Check all bills and explanations of benefits (EOBs) paid to be sure they are correct.
  • Some people prefer to pay bills by check so they have a clear record of payment. If you pay bills online, you can save electronic copies of payment documents on your computer, or print out proof of payment.
  • Save and file all bills, payment receipts, and explanations of benefits (EOBs). If you use checks, your bank or credit union can tell you how to get copies of canceled checks if needed. If you have to get canceled checks or proof of online payments from banks or credit card companies, you may be charged a fee.
  • Keep a daily log of events and expenses; a calendar with plenty of writing space is useful.
  • Keep a list of cancer care team members and all other contacts with their phone and fax numbers and email addresses.
  • Find out what is tax deductible and be sure to keep the originals of those records. (See the “To learn more” section for the IRS phone number.)

Last Medical Review: 12/31/2013
Last Revised: 10/13/2014