Monday, September 22, 2008

Fun with Medical Billing

So, last week I called several people associated with my hospital bill, and the two I reached insisted it was (still) due to be completely written off and I owe them no money and needed to take no further action. Then they sent me a letter thanking me for the opportunity to slice me up and said they expect full payment immediately or else my bill goes to collections. It sounds like a vague threat to have my kneecaps broken if I don’t cough up the money. This has been a very long dialog with the hospital, involving several people and departments, conducted via e-mail, letters, and phone calls, but if I boiled it all down to one conversation it would probably sound like the hospital staff was trained at the Monty Python Institute of Customer Service.

“Hello, Our Lady of Anus Pain Hospital. How may we bill the shit out of you today?”
“Having barely survived your treatment, I find myself owing you lots of money despite being out of work. I have no insurance and the government decided my contribution in Iraq wasn’t worth their eternal gratitude after all. Can you help?”
“Of course. Send us your weight in paperwork and we’ll consider it.”
“Here you go.”
“Thanks. Now fill out the portions we said were optional and try again. Also, when we said send us proof of your income by providing a bank statement, pay stub, or the worksheet signed by your employer, we actually meant all three.”
"Here. Now will you help?”
“Of course. Your bill will be completely written off by the end of July.”
“Great – that’s…”
“By completely written off, we mean just the part billed by the hospital. You’ll still need to arrange individual deals with all seven doctors who glanced at you.”
“Okay.”
“And their departments, and staff, and whoever owns their part of the building. Expect individual bills for each, broken by the day they worked you over.”
“But you’ll still write off these three really big bills in July?”
“Absolutely. By July we mean the end of August.”
“So I don’t need to do anything further?”
“Send us all of our money now.”
“What money? You mean the money I no longer owe?”
“That’s right. We’re completely squared. The bill will be corrected by September.”
“But you said…”
“October is the new September.”
“Well, thank you for…”
“Pay us now, deadbeat. We saved your life.”
“But you said I don’t owe you anything.”
“True – the computer says your bill is nil. In fact, you’re wasting our time with this call.”
“Thank you. Good-bye.”
“I SET YOU ON FIRE!”

For those of you planning to have surgery soon, just remember that it’s only the beginning of the pain. Sadists become doctors. Psychopaths run the billing office.

16 comments:

Gib said...

How does a psychopathic sadist choose a career?

SJ said...

That would make November the new October.

Seriously dude set that hospital on fire.

jGrrl said...

Oh Gods I ♥ you!!! Please get here fast, I don't care how, and come to the hospital with me tomorrow? PLEASE!?!...

Monogram Queen said...

What you need is something in writing from whomever is telling you it will be written off and then send copy after copy after copy to the bills you are getting.. until you stop getting them finally.
Piece a' cake!

Avitable said...

That is unfuckingbelievable.

Grant said...

gib - we think the Army sounds fun, then we find out the truth and become database administrators.

sj - they would probably charge me for the matches.

jgrrl - couldn't I physically stay put and just send some positive Voodou energy your way?

mq - I think the problem is that the system is automated. The humans all agree the bill is to be reduced to $0, but until it happens the computer sends out threatening letters and voice messages.

avitable - having talked with many others who have dealt with the medical system, I'm beginning to believe this is the norm rather than the exception.

About Me: said...

BTDT. Have the t-shirt, tacky hat, and the knick-knacks.

It all begs the question of what kind of people want to grow up and become insurance agents?

messiah said...

who the hell is in charge of silly walks? i assume you walk funny after getting ummm... anally 'billed', but do they have their own department? separate bill?

(yes, i know... this is no laughing matter.....)

Crys said...

it's a complete circus. anytime i have to go to the doctor EVER i am sent to collections, even though it's for something minor and even though my insurance will totally cover it. it's enough to make your head explode.

sorry, G

SSC~ The Domestic Diva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SSC~ The Domestic Diva said...

I think my comment got deleted when I tried to post it. SO I am trying again.

I am so sorry that you are going through this. More so my anger is with the government. They have our boys serve in war and then toss them aside. I wish I could do something for you. Perhaps write a letter to the hospital using LEGAL words?

Just a thought. It also scares me because I don't have insurance and I was waiting for when Joe and I got married. At this point Red Ranger will be married before me.

Anyway I pray nothing happens to me because I couldn't afford it as well.

You will be in my thoughts my dear friend!!!!!

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Wow...I never thought it would happen but you actually make me LOVE my HMO plan.

Joe said...

Sorry to hear that this is still going on. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for you.

Now when they said October, did they specify which year? Because that may be the problem right there.

Grant said...

about me - beware kids who like to make pillow cubicles and play customer service.

messiah - everything is a laughing matter.

crys - it makes me appreciate my dentist a little more. Her people are merely incompetent, not evil.

ssc - I got both comments. I think threatening them would only give them incentive to mess with my account. I think it's just the system that is inefficient, probably because it benefits them to have the charges on record for as long as possible.

pq - I had an HMO plan before, but I dropped my insurance when they switched to something best described as a sub HMO plan. If I had that insurance, I would have been left paying about twice what I owe without it.

joe - apparently I took too much for granted. Curses.

Tracy Lynn said...

Pretty sure I SET YOU ON FIRE is my new catchphrase.

Grant said...

tracy - it's a good way to start or end a conversation.