Home > 2012 > Managing Debt

Health Care Bills Without the Agony?

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In recent years, utilities, credit card issuers and banks have made a real effort to redesign their statements so they’re easier for their customers to understand. In many cases they’ve succeeded, and I’m grateful.

But for some reason, my health insurer (Anthem Blue Cross) has continued to to send me the same kind of inscrutable “Explanation of Benefits” letter that it has sent for years. It’s filled with information that is of no value to me, including machine-readable bar codes and glyphs (who are these for?—the letters don’t say). And the kind of information I would like to know is incomplete. For example, the letters include the “member’s medical deductible applied to date” but doesn’t say what the deductible actually is, or how much is remaining.

To make matters worse, these laughably named “explanation of benefit” notices don’t include a bill to let me pay the outstanding balance on a medical visit. Instead, I receive bills directly from the care provider, which are often sent before the insurance benefits kick in. Other times the bills arrive many months after the service was performed, containing urgent language about how late the bill is, even though it’s the first I ever heard about it.

I was resigned to living with this messy and frustrating situation, until someone told me about Simplee.com, describing it as “Mint.com for healthcare.” I registered and gave Simplee permission to access my family’s Anthem medical insurance account. Simplee crunched all the available data from my online Anthem account and created a blessedly easy-to-read dashboard that showed my healthcare costs since the beginning of the year, my out-of-pocket expenses, my medical deductible, the number of doctors visits my family had, and the outstanding bills for medical services. It also showed how much our pharmacy costs were, and described our medical plan in plain English. Best of all, Simplee’s clear “explanation of benefit” notices are things of beauty. Anthem could learn much from Simplee.

Now, when I get a medical bill, I pay it through Simplee instead of directly to the provider. Like Mint, Simplee is one of those websites I pray doesn’t go out of business because I find it so useful. I expect it’ll eventually start making making money by recommending health care services, in the same way that Mint.com offers personal finance services, but even if Simplee starts charging users a subscription fee, I would pay to use it.

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  • http://www.credit.com Gerri

    Looks like a great tool – I am going to give it a try. (Wish they could fix the entire medical billing mess!)

  • Raresparky

    Insurers are in business to make money of course and if you’ve ever looked closely at their structures you’d probably be amazed at how top heavy they are. I suspect that such inscrutably encrypted information works well to preserve the status quo of the layers of management.

    While our local insurers show record profits, with upper management salaries and benefits to match, subscriber premiums continue to rise while the insurers go to great pains to minimize benefits.

    The greatest mystery remaining is why we all go along.

    Thanks for the story. I’ll check them out. And as much as they might deserve remuneration for providing a valuable service, it would feel awfully like insult added to the injurious policies of the insurers, having to pay for what they ought to be doing in the first place.

  • Holly

    This is the best thing EVER. Thank you for posting on BB, because I’d never heard of it before.

    I’ve had complex medical bills for the last 5 years (multiple doctors/clinics/hospitals/services), and this would have saved my hair from going grey (figuratively). It took less than 5 minutes to sign up, and for the first time EVER, I can tell you exactly what I spent on healthcare last year.

    I feel positively giddy about how much this is going to help me going forward. Thank you!!!!!!!

    • http://www.simplee.com Tomer Shoval

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I started Simplee after trying to deal with endless bills and letters.
      Such feedback is the fuel that makes us all work hard at Simplee.
      What a way to finish the week!

      Tomer Shoval

  • Pingback: Is Your Health Insurer Ruining Your Credit? |()

  • Sharon Murphy

    Why would anyone wait for EOB’s to arrive in the mail? If you are with any of the major carriers, you can opt to go paperles and access the informationIn online. Instead of relying on Simplee to log into your healthcare account, access your personal health information and download it to another site, doesn’t it make sense to log into the site yourself and review the information on that site?

    I realize Simplee is HIPPA compliant, but sharing all of my personal healthcare related website usernames/passwords seems a little naive to me.

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