Monday, August 11, 2008

Fun with Billing

So, to recap on my recent life:

In May I turned 39 and cancelled my insurance because I never need medical treatment and, if an emergency did occur, I'm a combat veteran of the United States Army and I'm covered by the Veterans’ Administration for life.

In June I got deathly ill, dragged myself to the VA hospital and learned that due to a new policy enacted this year, I'm no longer eligible for treatment by them. Surprise! I went to a clinic, was told I was too far gone for them to help and that I should get to an ER right away, so I did that, endured three surgeries and three hyperbaric treatments over the next six days, then (barely) managed to get back home and collapse. That was June.

In July I spent the month getting daily antibiotic treatments, living with a permanently upset stomach, and having the local medical community bill the shit out of me. I expected one bill from the hospital. Ha ha – silly me. I feel like a medical virgin who’s been anally deflowered by an elephant wearing a spiked leather condom. As it turns out, they bill separately by department, by doctor, by service, by date, etc. Each hospital unit bills according to their own standards beamed in from planet Pachyderm Sodomy. Add to that, while I was un- or semi-conscious they had, by a conservative estimate, every person in the Western hemisphere parade through my room for a consult. I’m pretty sure I owe a bill to my nurse’s brother’s uncle’s dentist’s florist’s dog. His name is Booger. Bad dog – no biscuit! Anyway, I spent the rest of the month calling all the hospital departments to make payment arrangements because there’s no possible way I can pay all at once.

So now, well into August, I am receiving hospital bills almost daily – some new, some revisions, some threats to pay before they turn me over to collections who will, I assume, feed me to rabid warthogs. After applying for financial aid several times, the hospital sent me a nice letter saying they had revised my bill down to $0, then added about $5k in charges to the original amount and told me to pay up immediately or suffer the wrath of Zuu-Zuu. I spent an hour Sunday writing a pile of $25 checks so nobody could claim I didn’t send them anything, but I’m not sure what else to do at this point. I can’t make a serious commitment to pay because a) I don’t know how many more bills to expect, b) as with their medical advice, no two people at the hospital will ever tell me the same thing, c) it will take me about six years to pay my current bills if I dedicate a full third of my take-home pay to the hospital (assuming nothing bad requiring money happens over the next six years), and d) I’m expecting about $15k more in bills from the departments that I know exist.

On top of that, I received a letter from a group and / or person called Chamberlin Edmonds that says they will attempt to help me find government assistance to pay for the hospital bill that is supposed to now be $0 anyway. I wonder if this is the same government that owns the VA hospital? Anyway, I’m suspicious of anyone who sends me a letter asking me to call and swears it will not cost me a thing, but maybe I should give them a try. My cell phone has a backlog of minutes and I never get tired of applying for financial aid only to be told I’m in that most wonderful of categories, the working class – just enough money to pay for government programs but not to benefit from them.

Or maybe I should just take my chances with the warthogs.


Crys said...

ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Grant.


when i was ill i think my bills capped out at about 400k. i am not shitting you. i had only recently acquired insurance, as well, so it was fortuitous. which is the opposite of what's happened to you here.

you have nothing to lose calling that official-sounding guy, except for time. also, mega millions is up at $56 million. doesn't hurt a brother to try (then to cut a sister in)


SJ said...

That's bad. I had two surgeries the first one I didn't get a single rupee for. The second and costlier one I got 100% back. During the first surgery I was insured with an Indian insurance company. By the time the second one came on my team had been spun-off as a smaller firm and my insurance was in the US. They sent me a check in US$ and before I cashed it the exchange rate changed in my favor. Yay!

A rare positive insurance story.

Anonymous said...

Hi...I ran across your blog and I work for Chamberlin Edmonds. We are a private company based in Atlanta, GA that helps uninsured patients find programs to pay for their bills. I promise you our service is free of charge. We contract with hospitals, not patients. Apparently you were admitted to one of our client hospitals, so this enables us to try to help by finding government programs that you may be eligible for. You may not qualify for any but it is worth a shot...since it will cost you nothing! Good luck and let me know the outcome on your blog.

Joe said...

Clearly the folks at Chamberlin Edmonds are fans of your blog so they can't be all bad.

But I simply still can't believe that you were turned away at the VA hospital. That's just wrong.

Kira said...

I think you should have them bill the VA for all the remaining charges because, after being shot at and having to kill for our country, they owe you some free doctor's care.

Melinda said...

I suppose this hasn't been soothing medicine in your recovery.
I work in the NHS in UK (I am American and trained in the USA). Yes, there are many faults, but we provide excellent health care, FREE.
I am sorry you have to worry about this. It's not good enough.

That will be 100 dollars. Ha ha...

hey, I've swiped a few of your jokes to tell my patients. Of course I've cleaned them up first with an alco-wipe.
They think I am quite the witty entertainer. Got anymore?

Monogram Queen said...

Grant I just can't understand why you are not covered by the VA..

Hell make the call - warthogs are so over-rated!

I am so sorry you are going through all this CRAP on top of being deathly ill.....

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

"to the VA hospital and learned that due to a new policy enacted this year, I'm no longer eligible for treatment by them."

That is SUCH bullshit...what the fuck???

They sent me a statement for my last surgery (went in on a Friday and they released me the following Sunday) and I got the statement from the hospital and the bill was almost 40K.

I paid my $600.00 co-pay and that was it.

Stories like yours make me REALLY appreciate the HMO I usually piss and moan about.

Good luck with Chamberlin Edmonds...I'd give 'em a shot anyway!

Grant said...

crys - olives give me nightmares and are the devil's bidness. I might have some tonight.

sj - I think you've found a new career - professional surgical target.

anonymous - I'm going to call the hospital offices first to straighten out what I owe, then I'll give CE a call. I'll let everyone know how it goes. Thanks.

joe - the VA's next step will be to roll anyone who grosses more than $30k a year and then have them arrested for vagrancy.

kira - sounds good to me. You would think the government would be more sensitive to our needs after spending so much money training us to kill.

melinda - jokes? There are no jokes here.

mq - they have to abuse us sick people - you healthy ones won't let them operate on you.

pq - maybe that's the primary function of the VA - to make you appreciate the HMOs.

Melinda said...

You know Grant, you are absolutely right...I stole those jokes from another blog. Fancy me giving you all the credit! So sorry. They were good jokes and I was sure they came from you. Let me know if you need a good laugh. Cheers guy.

Avitable said...

It's almost like you need to hire a bookkeeper just to keep up with the bills. Maybe you should start selling off the Asian girls you keep in your basement to the highest bidder.

tiff said...

Um, so this is the Bush Administration's idea of 'supporting our troops'?


I like the idea of the 25 dollar checks. That's excellent.

The Miner said...

take so much care of yourelf! I think you are gonna be such an unlucky man. Huh?!

Grant said...

melinda - there is no funny to be had here.

avitable - I was the highest bidder - that's how I got them. And I'm making a casserole this weekend so I can't spare any.

tiff - I started with a plan for $100 checks, but the amount dropped as the bills continued to come.

miner - so far my batting average with Asian hotties is very low, but I consider myself lucky since that can only go up.

messiah said...

sure, you can make fun of us because we live in the land of ice and snow, and we're over run by beavers, and we spend all of our R&D money on zamboni technology, but we have universal health care damnit.

hearing about the size of the bills you have (and crys' as well with insurance) scares the crap out of me.

the hospital sent me a nice letter saying they had revised my bill down to $0

I say send all of the departments a cheque for $0 stapled to a copy of that letter ;)