Keeping Health Insurance Records When Someone Has Cancer

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. It’s also really helpful when there are questions, such as disputes or errors in billing or recording payments.

Create a system

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. Another way is to scan the forms and keep them in e-files. Some people just put them all in a box and sort them when they have time.

Record-keeping is also important for those who want to take advantage of deductions when filing itemized tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has information and free publications about tax deductions for cancer treatment expenses. These rules change from time to time, so the IRS is the best source for the most current information.

Keep records of the following:

  • Medical bills from all health care providers – write the date you got the bill on each one
  • Receipts for any payments made in person or electronically
  • Claims filed, including the date of service, the doctor, and the date filed
  • Reimbursements (payments from insurance companies) received
  • Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) 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
  • Meal and lodging expenses
  • Travel to and from 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
  • Keep a copy of your Summary of Plan Benefits so that you can use it for reference if you have questions about coverage
  • If you have Medicaid or your child has CHIP, keep copies of all letters and forms they send to you. They often have valuable information about appeals information, case load numbers, and names you might need later.
  • You’ll also want to keep a copy of your completed annual renewal forms for reference, and so you’ll know when they’re due next. That way you can call if you don’t get your renewal forms on time.

Tips for record-keeping:

  • Decide who in the family will be the record-keeper or how the task will be shared.
  • Get a relative or friend to help, if you need it. This may be especially important for people who are single or who live alone.
  • Set up a filing system. Use a file cabinet, drawer, box, binders, sectioned envelopes, loose-leaf notebooks, electronic folders, or whatever works best for you.
  • Review bills soon after getting them and note any questions about charges.
  • Check all bills and Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) paid to be sure they’re 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 bank online, print out or save electronic copies of online payments (and keep backup files). If you have to get canceled checks or proof of online payments from banks or credit card companies, you may be charged for them.
  • Keep a daily log of events and expenses; a calendar with plenty of writing space is useful. If you use an e-calendar, be sure you keep a backup copy.
  • You’ll also want to keep your health insurance administrator’s contact information.
  • Keep a list of cancer care team members and all other contacts with their phone and fax numbers and email addresses for when you have questions.
  • Find out what’s tax deductible and be sure to keep the originals of those records. (See the “More information from your American Cancer Society” section for the IRS phone number.)

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.

Along with the American Cancer Society, other sources of information and support are listed below.

Medicaid and CHIP – US Department of Health and Human Services
Toll-free number: 1-877-696-6775
Website: www.medicaid.gov

Internal Revenue Service
Toll-free number: 1-800-829-1040
TTY: 1-800-829-4059
Website: www.irs.gov

    Has answers to tax questions, tax forms, and referrals to free tax help for those who qualify

National Association of Insurance Commissioners
Toll-free Number: 1-866-470-6242
Website: http://naic.org/state_web_map.htm

    Offers contact information for your state insurance commission (also called state insurance department). You can contact your state insurance commission for insurance information and rules specific to your state and find out what you can do about problems with your insurance plan

Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF)
Toll-free number: 1- 800-532-5274
Website: www.patientadvocate.org

    Works with the patient and insurer, employer and/or creditors to resolve insurance, job retention and/or debt problems related to their diagnosis, with help from case managers, doctors, and attorneys. For cancer patients in treatment or less than 2 years out of treatment

Last Medical Review: November 18, 2015 Last Revised: March 1, 2016

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