Medical BillsBridget Queally's manila envelope taunted her. It was overflowing with medical insurance claims, bills, receipts and other health-care related paperwork. Every month, it seemed to get a little thicker as she postponed dealing with it.

"I left it to the very last minute every year because I just didn't want to look at it," the mother of three teenagers told DailyFinance. "I knew that I was leaving money on the table and I felt badly." Like many women, Queally, 47, manages her family's household budget, including all the paperwork associated with medical care from at least six different doctors, both in- and out-of-network.

Queally is far from the only person overwhelmed by dealing with medical insurance administration. Now, a new company, Off Your Desk (offyourdesk.net), is offering to solve the problem for them.

Queally signed up for the service last November, using the company's pre-paid envelopes to send in her paperwork to a personal representative. Today, Queally says she has "complete confidence" she is getting the money she is due. Off Your Desk says on average, they get $2,200 per client in reimbursements.

Part concierge-service and part accountant, the claims specialists of Off Your Desk manage your health-care related paperwork and recover all the money you're due from your insurance company or special savings accounts. For people who just want to get current on their insurance paperwork, the company offers a one-time service for $295. For those who want someone to handle on-going claims and reimbursements, the cost is $65 per month.

Amy Keohane, CEO of Off Your Desk, says the company has received everything from crumpled, soda-stained forms to duffel bags stuffed with papers. Nothing fazes her experienced claims team, she says. "They know how to interpret paperwork, know who to call and know very quickly how to fix these problems."

Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Lost


Off Your Desk is one of a growing number of third-party companies focused on helping consumers maximize their medical dollars, whether recouping insurance money or spending for specialized pre-tax accounts. Every year, an American family of four leaves an average of $3,000 on the table that they are owed by the health insurance companies, estimates Off Your Desk.

FSAStore.com is another company aimed at helping consumers make the most of their flexible spending accounts. Jeremy Miller, founder of FSAStore, says there is a lot of confusion over what is and is not allowed under FSA guidelines. It's estimated that another $400 million was forfeited in flexible spending accounts by consumers last year, according to Miller's company. The store only sells approved products so that consumers don't let these tax-free dollars go to waste.

Why are Americans walking away from so much money? For starters, the insurance industry mis-processes 20% of claims, totaling around $15.5 billion every year, according to the American Medical Association. Another factor is the shift by employers to high-deductible plans that leave an increasing number of consumers paying out-of-pocket, and who must file for reimbursement for out-of-network benefits or pay for care with a tax-advantaged savings account. Complicated forms, timing issues relating to claim-filing, and lengthy appeals processes aggravate the problem. Changing rules over what products do and do not qualify for spending with special savings accounts continue add more confusion for reimbursements.

"One of the biggest issues we see is that customers just don't understand how their plan still plays a part if they go out of network," says Carrie McLean, a consumer specialist with ehealthinsurance.com. The result is that many people would rather walk away from money than deal with the headache of sorting out the insurance paperwork and submitting receipts.

McLean offers these tips to help save you money before you get a bill that surprises you.
  • Check your plan and see what you are and are not covered for.
  • Don't assume that a referral doctor is in network. Call the referral and ask if they are a "preferred provider" for a specific network.
  • Even if a doctor is listed on the literature from your insurance, call the office and confirm that you are covered.
  • If you really like an out-of-network doctor, ask your MD if he or she is willing to join your network.
  • Double-check your explanation of benefits. Be proactive in making sure that the codes and services match up.

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14 Comments

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john

To me this looks like an advertisement for the company that is named in the story. More of AOL-HUFF Garbage. This is not any worse than the other spammers that infiltrate all the comment sections on these articals.

June 10 2011 at 1:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
samanthapooh337

The insurance and medical industries are really totally out of hand. Of course, when the average family leaves $3,000 on the table, it's very, very profitable for these corporations. Do they draw up pie charts to divide that $3,000 pie.

June 09 2011 at 6:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sgentilejr

If an auto mechanic cannot repair my car I don't have to pay him. If a plumber cannot clear my drain or fix my pipe I don't have to pay him. Yet___Doctors alone expect to get paid for "Practicing" on your___even when they fail to help.

June 09 2011 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vsjpp

The 12 % Letter is it for real?

June 09 2011 at 1:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
savemycountry911

We have had no trouble at all with Blue Cross, Blue Shield.

June 08 2011 at 10:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bernadette Ferrer

Great expose! Why is everyone surprised? As an example, a surf on the website followed by a phone call to speak to a "live" person regarding health insurance rates....The customer representative is TRAINED to Sell the product!
Kudos to Amy Koehane, CEO of offyourdesk.net & Jeremy Miller of FSAStore.com is filling a niche based on Patient Advocacy!
This reinforces my mantra of "Every individual, the consumer who is also a patient, needs a health advocate"!!!

June 08 2011 at 6:06 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
elrich518

If any of these companies are hiring, I'd like to apply.

June 08 2011 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mike and cecelia

THE FSSA ACCOUNTS ARE ANOTHER SCAM SO THE RICH GET RICHER AND THE MIDDLE CLASS GETS SCREWD AGAIN .OUR PRESIDENT WANTS TO FIX ALL OF THIS CRAP BUT THE IDIOTS IN THE CONGRESS DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE ANY THING I MEAN THE GOP .

June 08 2011 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mike and cecelia's comment
savemycountry911

Your president wants to turn this into a third world country. He's right on schedule.

June 08 2011 at 10:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to savemycountry911's comment
pozboys

Hes your president too!!!

June 09 2011 at 10:46 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
Brenda B.

Having experience in this industry, I can completely agree that people leave so much money on the table. This happens to some because they wait til the last minute to get in all their documents and forms and they are incomplete or people just assume that using their provided FSA card takes care of everything. This is NOT how you want to treat this type of tax saving benefit. Keep in mind, the whole point of this benefit is for tax savings so it's not going to be like I am going to do what I want and your're going to approve this because I said so. That is the mindset of most people. Try to shut up and learn how this benefit can help you. I've talked to so many people that complain because a $2 charge is not approved for some reason or another. At least working in this I've discovered that as long as I have a deadline, I am still good. I have this type of account and they way I try to use it is this: As long as my account balance and card transactions are evened to $0 at the end of the year, I am good. Don't blow a gasket over the small stuff and don't be offended if things get denied. Find out what items are approved and what documentation is needed and use that to your advantage. I don't know if I would pay someone to handle this type of account. It seems like a waste of money to me. I understand if you are going back and forth with an insurance company about bills and such but really, how much time does it take to fill out a form, print it and fax or mail it in? I could use the $65 a month or $295 flat fee for a whole lot more good than to pay someone to submit reimbursement claims. I can go to my insurance companies website and gather all my EOB's and fill out claim forms in about an hour. I can pay my self $295 out of the reimbursement to do that.

June 08 2011 at 10:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jgoetz9174

This company sounds good, however, there are many questions about their client MS. Queally. Why is Medicare paying for her medical expenses? She is 47. Is she handicapped or disabled? MEDICARE is usually pretty easy to deal with in my experience. The people are generally highly knowledgeable and helpful. Once in a while you get one that is difficult to deal with. Hang-up and call back and get another person. As far as reimbursements go, MEDICARE is very easy to deal with. They tell you exactly what to do, without fail. There is something wrong with this story. Not enough information.

June 08 2011 at 9:17 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jgoetz9174's comment
t2desktop

I think you misunderstood what the author wrote... The 47 year old woman referred to her medical care, not Medicare.

June 08 2011 at 11:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply