With 1-in-5 working-age Americans reporting they had trouble paying their medical bills in the past year, according to a Kaiser/Times survey released in January, it’s no wonder some entrepreneurs want to offer solutions.
Among them, a Bay Area startup called Remedy launched its website last week in hopes of helping consumers fight medical billing errors and overcharges. In some cases, said chief executive and co-founder Victor Echevarria, the company will even negotiate down balances.
How Remedy Works
After providing login credentials to your insurance portal, Remedy’s team of medical billing contractors begin reviewing the claims you’ve paid over the last year and automatically detect new ones as they become available. All customers must sign a release-of-information form that allows Remedy to review their medical bills and negotiate on their behalf. The startup is not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which aims to protect the confidentiality and security of healthcare information. As Echevarria put it, “we’re a personal representative that’s allowed to act on your behalf.” Remedy faxes a release to providers saying the patient gave them permission.
For Remedy customers, this means the company will raise any red flags to providers about overcharges or, at times, even hop on the phone with a provider’s billing department to correct an error or negotiate a balance (at the customer’s request). It focuses on bills broadly, not individual payments, and customers can continue to use the service for as long as they like. Be aware: Remedy takes a 20% cut of any extra money it’s able to save you, with a maximum fee of $99 per bill.
Customers can log in to Remedy’s desktop or mobile site to view any progress on bills; they also receive weekly email updates. When customers leave the service, Echevarria said Remedy deletes its access to all providers and sends them a notice of termination that it’s no longer working on the customer’s behalf.
Data Issues to Consider
As with any online service that accesses your personal data, it’s important to read the fine print carefully before you sign up. For its part, Echevarria said Remedy runs a background check on all the medical billing contractors it works with, and though it is not a HIPAA-covered entity, “we treat your data as if we were.” He added, “all of your data is encrypted,” and “nothing can be downloaded to local machines.” In other words, Remedy contractors “can only access data while they’re working on a case,” he explained.
While it’s good to know Remedy takes safety precautions, medical fraud is a real risk to consumers and not something to be taken lightly. You can learn more about the risks of identity theft here and read up on what to do if you fall victim. Your credit report, which can indicate signs of fraud — such as drops in your credit score and unexplained account openings — is a good place to start your research if you’re concerned. You can view two of your free credit scores, updated every two weeks, on Credit.com.