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Earning Miles on Medical Bills

A couple of weeks ago, I sprained my ankle and had to visit the emergency room. Thankfully I have health insurance through my employer, so all I was liable for was a $50 co-pay. On my way to the emergency room, I was conjuring up ways to maximize my point earnings.

The problem is that my insurance company is also my healthcare provider. As such, they didn’t go for the idea of having me pay for the entire visit and then get reimbursed, so I ended up earning just 50 points for the co-pay with my Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Here are a few things you should know in anticipation of paying a large medical bill:

1. Know the rules. Does your carrier let you pay and get reimbursed? What if you go outside the network? I learned my insurance company only reimburses if I go outside the network, and that is only acceptable if there is no network hospital nearby (which unfortunately, there is). On the other hand, my dental insurance does allow me to pay and get reimbursed within the network.

Know the rules so that you don’t end up on the hook for a large medical bill. Find out how much paperwork is involved, and how long it will take for you to get reimbursed.

2.  Payment Forms. Most medical offices and hospitals accept credit cards as a form of payment, but they tend to exclude American Express due to high fees. Find out if gift or prepaid cards are accepted. You can buy these at bonus category merchants to earn even more miles on your medical expenses.

3. Maximizing miles. Once you have all of the above worked out, consider which card earns the most points or benefits. Do you have a card that offers elite status after a certain amount of spend? Are there any high spending requirements you need to meet?

Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a 7% annual dividend. Amex SPG gives you a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred to an airline (effectively earning you 1.25 points per $1). Amex Membership Rewards often runs bonus point promos with select transfer partners, increasing the value of your point earnings by upwards of 50%.

Have all of this worked out, so the next time you’re at the doctor’s office (hopefully for nothing more than a regular check up), you’ll be looking at a major point payday.

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  1. For in-network providers, with nearly all insurance plans, if you “forget” your insurance card, you can offer to pay in full. Submit the claim and you will get a check back for the amount you paid, less your in-network copay. The insurer debits the provider’s account.

    I’ve done this multiple times. Low risk way to generate a lot of miles.

  2. bobgilbert

    I have a high deductible health plan and a Health Savings Account. I am able to earn points for my deductible amounts each year by paying the bills on a credit card and the reimbursing myself from my HSA. Just FYI for anyone in the same situation.

  3. Medical bills can be a mixed blessing in this way. Just be careful. In many instances where a service is not covered entirely by my insurance, I am in a much better negotiating position after the fact where I have not already paid the provider in full. Often they will be willing to negotiate a bit. If I have already paid, they tend to be much less willing to negotiate.

  4. How do you reimburse bills through your HSA? Bank of America only gives me their HSA card and no checks. I thought that is how legitimate medical bills are tracked. I would love to reimburse myself out of HSA and get the miles.

  5. Don’t forget the Chase United Club Visa Card which gives you 1.5 points for every $1 spend. It’s a Visa, so it’s always accepted by doctors and hospitals.

  6. “On my way to the emergency room, I was conjuring up ways to maximize my point earnings.”

    Now that’s when you know you’re a true PointChaser, ha ha! Seriously though, glad you’re okay.

    I imagine a related opportunity to earn points would be to pay for prescription medicine via credit card at drugstores. This is if you have to take anything after you get out of the hospital.

    • PointChaser

      Yet another pt earning opportunity I missed out on! My insurance company/provider has its own pharmacy in each hospital and I have to use it. No 3 pts/$1 for me. 🙁

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