Keeping records of your child’s insurance and medical costs

It can be hard to keep track of the bills, letters, claim forms, and other papers that start flowing into your home after a child is diagnosed with cancer. But keeping careful records of medical bills, insurance claims, and payments helps families better manage their money 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 exemptions for cancer treatment expenses (see “ To learn more”). The rules change from time to time, so the IRS is the best source of timely information.

Records to keep

  • 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 date filed
  • Reimbursements (payments from insurance companies) received and Explanation of Benefits (EOB) forms
  • 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
  • Meals and lodging expenses
  • Travel to and from doctor’s appointments and treatments or the hospital (including gas, mileage, and parking; and costs for a taxi, bus, medical transportation, or ambulance)
  • Admissions, clinic visits, lab work, diagnostic tests, procedures, and treatment dates
  • Drugs given and prescriptions filled

Tips for record-keeping

  • Decide who will be the family 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 parents who are single or 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 Explanation of Benefits forms 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 forms. 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 space for writing is useful.
  • Keep a list of cancer care team members and all other contacts with their phone and fax numbers and e-mail addresses.
  • Find out what’s tax deductible and be sure to keep the originals of those records. (See the “ To learn more” section for the IRS phone number.)

When you have problems paying a medical bill

Many families go through times when they find it hard to pay their bills on time. Most hospitals and agencies are willing to work with you to resolve these problems. To help keep a good credit rating, pay attention to notices that say the bill will soon be turned over to a collection agency. You want to avoid this if at all possible. But don’t pay any bill until you have the final Explanation of Benefits from your insurance company (and if your child is covered under 2 plans, wait until you have the one from the secondary insurance too). Call the billing department that sent the bill if there’s a difference between your bill and the Explanation of Benefits. Be persistent about this.

When a medical bill comes that can’t be paid right away, families can:

  • Explain the problem to the hospital or clinic financial counselor or the doctor’s office secretary.
  • Work out a payment delay or an extended payment plan.
  • Talk with the team social worker about sources of short-term help.
  • Think about asking relatives or friends to help out with money on a short-term basis.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: November 13, 2014 Last Revised: January 8, 2015

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