Project manager helps track insurance claims HELP LINE

June 01, 1998|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Q. Because of health problems, I have several service providers billing me for their services. I also have multiple insurance providers, including Medicare, that I hope are paying these bills. Many times the first billing is rejected and it must be resubmitted to the same carrier. All of thiback and for makes it difficult to keep track of the status of the various bills. I'm wondering if you know of any program to handle a problem such as this one. I've tried Parsons Technology's Personal Health Journal, but that doesn't seem to be the answer.

A. I know I'm supposed to be the computer writer ready at all times with just the right piece of software, but I suspect your answer is filed at Walgreen's under "M" for manila folder.

While software such as Parsons' excellent home medical database keeps tabs on medical bills owed and paid, your needs are simply to find a way to keep the supporting paperwork up to date until the insurance pays you and thus allows you to enter a tangible number in your medical costs balance sheet.

If you are adamant about doing this with a computer instead of just maintaining a paper folder, your best bet would be using a type of program known as a project manager that lets you track various bits of an unfinished undertaking so that the status of each element is visible at the click of a mouse.

The best of these to come my way lately has been TodoManager from Micro Logic Corp. of Hackensack, N.J. ( With this software you can easily track each billing, rejection and appeal.

Q. Concerning Favorites in Microsoft Internet Explorer 4: Do you know of a way to find an elusive Web address that you know you've stored as a favorite somewhere but just can't remember which folder without opening every darned one of them? This might be especially helpful when you have folders with similar but distinct subjects, such as "Health Care," "First Aid," "CPR," "Emergency Medicine," etc.

A. The Microsoft Web browser creates a small file for each Web site address that you add to your Favorites folder, so finding one is as easy as finding any other file on your PC. Click on the Windows 95 Start button and then pick Find and Files/Folders. Type in as much of the site name as you can remember and the software will bring up an icon you can click to open the site or move the address to some other place on your machine.

Q. Our computer guru highly recommended that we not use our computer fax-receiving capabilities at home. All I have heard suggests that my computer hard drive could be accessed via its fax modem, and it makes sense because a fax is downloaded directly into a hard drive directory. Should I disable the fax-receiving capability and buy a fax machine? This may sound draconian, but I don't want to find my hard drive fried by some hacker.

A. And I thought I was a worrywart. Quite frankly, your guru needs a couple of weeks at some quiet place with Prozac in the candy machines and upholstery on the walls and ceiling until the paranoia passes. Telling people to deny themselves the convenience of PC faxing out of concern that some hacker is lurking out there, ready to attack, is a waste of good worry.

At the very best, a hacker might send you an offensive note or picture, but the connections for fax transmission and receipt operate on specific instructions called "handshaking protocols" that do not give either side access to the rest of the other machine.

It is true that one can set up a PC to be accessed remotely with software such as PC Remote and Laplink so that an outsider might wreak havoc, but the electronics involved in faxing just don't provide that kind of a two-way street.

Q. I correspond with a Mac user using Windows 95 on Gateway. His unit has "option" choice for using the tilde over the n, as in Seor. My unit has none. I have tried many suggestions to no avail.

A. When you get to the point in the word processor where you need the special character, just click on Start, then Programs, then Accessories and then Character Map.

This brings up a screen filled with special characters in each font. You then select and copy the one you need and then paste it into your document.

Q. I am a writer new to the computer scene. I need a word processor program for my work. I need spell-checking, a dictionary and thesaurus, and consecutive page numbering so when I finish a file I can start a new chapter and continue with the sequenced page numbers.

A. You need to make a mambo two-step to your local software vendor and buy Microsoft Home Essentials for roughly $100.

I always urge people to pop for this package because it includes the full Word 97 software as well as a two-CD set of Microsoft Encarta and Microsoft Works 4.0 at a very low price.

Word 97 makes quick work of the page numbering you need and does a huge number of other productivity beef-ups.

They include on-the-fly spell-checking, automatic grammar checking and even an autotype feature to allow quick insertion of boilerplate.

Send e-mail to jcoateribune. com..

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