C’mon, guys, you can do this!
Saturday August 01st 2009, 3:08 pm
Filed under: Life

If you remember this, I told very little of the story at the time. It involved the hospital bill, the ER physician’s bill, the offer of a discount on the hospital only if I paid it in full that month–which was what I’d called to do anyway–and I paid immediately in full on both amounts, separately. (Because while they had me on hold forever trying to decide whether they could take my money for both in the same department, the neighbor’s baby got locked in her car. I got back to them later.)

Stanford then took the discount figure, which was about five times the physician bill, wrote it up as being the physician bill, and sent it not to me but to a collection agency. I had asked for a receipt; instead I got a call out of the blue from a man who was very abusive from the get-go, demanding I not call Stanford, demanding I immediately give him my credit card and bank information, trying hard to intimidate me into immediately giving him a large sum of money that had no basis in reality.

My reasonable reaction was to think, who on earth are you, how did you get my phone number, and why on earth do you think I would be so stupid as to do that? Identity theft, pure and simple. I simply said to him I had no business with him whatsoever and hung up.  He immediately called back and launched into a tirade.

Of course I immediately called Stanford: after I’d printed out the documents proving I owed them not a thing.

Stanford admitted they’d turned it over to collections, admitted the whole thing was utterly botched, apologized, and assured me my balance was indeed zero.  Getting them to that point, however, took several phone calls and way too many hours.  The woman I got on the last go-round had the presence of mind to go and check hours later, just to make absolute sure, she said, that it stayed fixed–and it hadn’t. She fixed it again, and called me again to let me know.

Soooo…  I got a bill today.  I do expect one for the recent surgeon pre-op appointment; I didn’t get that.  We’re back at January/February.  They straightened out the discount/physician bill mixup–wasn’t that nice of them?  And charged me, yet again, for the hospital bill co-payment. We maxed out our out-of-pocket of ~$9000 for the year on that co-payment. In April. When they first sent me that bill.

And I have next week coming up…

If nothing else, this whole scenario is an example of the need to keep newspapers alive. Action Line time. I called in the big guns.

22 Comments so far
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Sorry, as a Canadian I feel like this post is written in Martian. How can those who happen to fall ill be penalized with these crazy fees? I will never understand the US “health care” situation, it just seems to be health charges.

Comment by Lisa in Toronto 08.01.09 @ 3:29 pm

Oh, yes, medical billing is a nightmare. I’m working on one of mine, too. The scene where you go to a hospital that has a contract with the insurance company but the ER doctors aren’t on a contract so they bill like out-of-network and you get stuck with that extra payment — even though you went to the right hospital. Hunh? Maybe I need to knit a while and forget about that one.

Comment by sjanova 08.01.09 @ 3:57 pm

So sorry, Alison. You certainly don’t need this at this time (or any other). Don’t forget to have someone check your credit report.

Comment by Joansie 08.01.09 @ 4:24 pm

Show no mercy! I saw an apron this morning “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!” it said. Yup!

Comment by Barbara-Kay 08.01.09 @ 5:21 pm

Good for you, They had their chance to fix it, and failed.
I think of the people who may not have energy or confidence to fight back, and may be paying money they don’t owe, and I get very angry.

And Stanford is supposed to be a good place.
Well, I bet they are, in the health part of it, but they need to be acceptable in other departments too.

Yay Alison!

Comment by Diana Troldahl 08.01.09 @ 5:45 pm

Collections agencies can be incredibly nasty. For no good reason. It’s not like you were trying to dodge them. Idjits. fingers crossed intelligent, competent heads prevail.

Comment by Carol 08.01.09 @ 6:46 pm

What an utterly frustrating problem. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this Again while you have more important things to focus on. Prayers coming your way that this gets resolved properly & quickly!

Comment by TripletMom 08.01.09 @ 7:33 pm

Apologies, I meant to add – best wishes for the upcoming surgery!

Comment by Lisa in Toronto 08.01.09 @ 7:49 pm

Good for you for calling in Bigger Guns! I’m sorry you have to spend your energy doing this right now — at least there’s a lot of strength in anger!

Again, I know that the time and energy you spent on sharing this with us will help someone else in a similar situation down the line, but I’d rather not be prompted to have thoughts like these!

This kind of behavior on the part of the hospital (who started this mess by sending your bill to Collections) deserves the bad publicity I hope they get. Talk about adding insult to injury! From a hospital of all places!

And the behavior of the collections agency guy was not only bad and wrong, it’s illegal to threaten and badger (or call before or after certain hours, or call you at your place of employment).

I’m going to assume that this incident is under “under control,” but when talking with a collections agency it’s important to get the full name of the person you’re talking with, their extension number, and that of their supervisor! Note the time and date of the call: the recordings the agency may have of their phone calls can go in your favor if it comes to legal issues.

I’m surprised to see myself write this — I’m not big on solving problems legally, but this kind of stuff makes me see red. (Maybe I should knit something red and get it out of my system? 😉

Sending you only good, positive thoughts, Alison!


Carol in MA

Comment by Carol Telsey 08.01.09 @ 7:50 pm

Oh good grief. And after you went and breathed a sigh of relief and everything. Dang. Here’s to a better billing experience this time.

Comment by Channon 08.01.09 @ 7:59 pm

Just what you need right now. I hope you and Stanford are on the front page of the newspaper.

Comment by sherry in idaho 08.01.09 @ 8:21 pm

Around here we turn to Call 3 for this kind of *stuff. (I don’t even have a word for it)I hope your Big Guns have good hunting!! NOw, deep breath, and back to work on being healthy.

Comment by Ruth 08.01.09 @ 8:49 pm

We had an $800 bill being sent to us over and over from my surgery in February they weren’t submitting it to my insurance it took till about a month ago to get them to finally submit it.((Hugs))Darcy

Comment by Darcy 08.01.09 @ 10:59 pm

This post serves to highlight our absolute need for Universal Health Care. There’s absolutely no need that anyone should be subjected to this. Imagine what happens to people with no insurance…

Comment by Leslie 08.02.09 @ 7:11 am

ActionLine! I so hope it helps.

Comment by RobinM 08.02.09 @ 7:58 am

I just think of all the money that could be spent on delivering health care that is going on needless and nasty paper-pushing in the Circumlocution Office (a place mentioned in Little Dorrit.) And a patient’s energy should go towards recovering, not worrying about how to pay the bills or sort out errors. BTW, skipping to the more recent post, I did feel a bit bad for the guy who has to feed his family by harassing sick people. A system that allows this crushes too many souls.

Comment by LynnM 08.02.09 @ 8:02 am

Oh, for Pete’s sake! What a mess-up! Congrats for having the backbone to call in the big guns, though. Somehow, press attention tends to make companies listen soooo much better! Suddenly, it will magically be all fixed… so why can’t they just do that the first time??? {{sigh}}

Comment by Pegi 08.02.09 @ 11:49 am

To heck with the front page! We want this story on the 6:00 News! What a fiasco you have had to deal with! Bummer! Good thoughts and strength are being sent you — please don’t fast — you need all the extra good food in your body you can put in. Hugs, Nancy

Comment by Nancy 08.02.09 @ 8:01 pm

Nah. It just needs fixing is all. I imagine it would be a very satisfying job to be able to simply pick up the phone, say who you are, state what your subscriber’s problem is and poof! Problem goes away!

Comment by AlisonH 08.02.09 @ 8:48 pm

Leslie at 7:11 am.
Until very recently (through 2 surgeriies and all of the health issues I’ve had in the last 3 yrs) we have been either under insured or have had no insurance. Believe me the hospitals have no love what soever for those that cant pay in full and have trouble making the minimum (to the hospital) payments. They often send the bill to collections even if you are paying on it. As for physicians offices.. if they are “health system” owned (around here it is primarily Sisters of Mercy or No mercy as they are known around here) then if your hospital or other system bills go unpaid or underpaid they can and will suspend your account and you wont be able to access your primary care physician as well as sending the bill to collections. My account just recently came out from under such a suspension so we went for almost 2yrs without being able to see our primary doc. The sad part is I’m not the only one who fights the problem of “Mercy Health” especially since Northwest is much more expensive outside of the hospital and for the most part much better in all ways.

Comment by Danielle from SW MO 08.03.09 @ 4:02 am

What a mess! Our hospital’s usual tactic is to wait forever until billing me at all (apparently while they’re going back and forth with the insurance company), then send a letter threatening to turn me over to collections.

Good for you for standing your ground with the collections guy!

Comment by Michelle 08.03.09 @ 12:35 pm

Now, for those who want government meddling in the healthcare arena: imagine having your bill being botched by a government run claims/billing office and just *see* if they have any mercy on you, or if you can ever get it straightened out. Just imagine the motor vehicle office combined with the IRS sending you the equivalent of a wage garnishment! No, wait…don’t. (We don’t want you having nightmares the night before surgery.)

May your surgery and recovery be quick and easy and may all the billing and insurance folks do what they should.

Comment by Karen Lewis 08.04.09 @ 7:49 pm

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