Medicare and Me: Tips to maximize your healthcare experience

Leah Sugar Kari, Certified Medical Representative

Finally, your long-awaited doctor’s appointment is days away. Your time is precious, so to make the most of it, you’ve jotted notes or questions to ask on bits of paper. At the doctor, you might have those notes with you but may not recall all that the doctor said or the next steps to take. To make the most of your doctor’s visit, I consulted my local SaddleBrooke Nurse Advocate and esteemed friend, Ms. Patti Dunlap, RN, who shared a helpful tip.

“Buy a simple notebook dedicated to your medical visits and prescription drug purchases,” Patti suggested. “With it, you can make notes for upcoming visits, list any medications the doctor discussed for the future or any actions you must take. Your notebook makes doctor visits more efficient and outcomes more positive. Your notes and doctor’s responses are in one place, and you have a record and clear picture of your visit. Use it when looking at a bill or an explanation of benefits from your health plan to ensure that what was reported by the provider matches with what you actually experienced,” Patti shared.

This is wise advice from a highly experienced nurse/advocate who accompanies people on doctor visits.

Another tip is to use one form of payment for all medical expenses. This makes it easy to figure out what you paid when you receive a bill stating a payment discrepancy. You immediately know which bank card or checking account to research to prove your payment. This also simplifies the tallying of medical costs at tax time.

Lastly, invoke your agent/broker to help with taking the mystery out of your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) or assist with customer service matters. Your enrolling agent can initiate a three-way call to your plan to help you change your provider, clarify a billing question from your EOB or other matters. As consumers we know to write down the representative’s name and date we called (using our dedicated notebook!)

A helpful practice is to ask if there is a call reference number for the call and jot it down. Your agent will have a note in your file that is a record of the call with the call reference number. This reference number can prove invaluable if you have a matter that wasn’t resolved in one call and might require some additional assistance with your agent/broker advocating on your behalf with your plan. It also is a gentle alert to the person assisting you that you are asking for a record you can refer to if matters are not fully resolved.

The plans do their best to be helpful in delivering your healthcare and your prescriptions. Putting a few simple procedures in place such as your medical notebook, your one form of payment and involving your agent/broker to assist in plan matters will make these transactions smoother. This will result in better outcomes in health and add to your peace of mind.

Leah Kari, Certified Medical Representative and retired pharmaceutical representative, is a local, licensed life and health insurance broker specializing in Medicare insurance options in Tucson. Reach Leah for comments at 520-484-3807 or email (TTY users dial 711.)