Back in June, my son broke his wrist. He fell from his scooter when it hit a piece of pea gravel on our driveway. Small fracture, easily set. He is covered under my wife's insurance policy. Her company pays for the entire premium but has a very high deductible...$5100. When we got the bill it was $3225...no break down of charges, just $3225. My wife called and asked if she could make payments or talk to someone about a break down of charges and was basically told "no, we don't do payments."
Enter the husband.
I call the hospital, Shasta Regional Medical Center here in Redding. I ask for an itemized bill before I make any payments. That's fair. No problem. "It's in the mail Mr. Lancaster."
I get the bill and see things like:
Sodium Bicarb, Pediatric - $138.00
Cold Pack - $70.00
2 Gal. Plastic Bucket - $86.00
Lidocaine, 1%, 30ml - $115.00
Splint - $338
Administer Single Vaccination - $52.00
Other charges include nearly $1000 for X-rays of his wrist. (The orthopeadist who saw him later charged me $50 a pop for the very same x-rays!)
Being the kind of person who now does research in to things before he buys and working for an air ambulance outfit, I go to www.boundtree.com and find out what this stuff costs...really.
Surprise, surprise, surprise!
Sodium Bicarb - $4.66
Cold Pack - $17
Splint - $32
Lidocaine - $17.95
And so on.
I call back to the hospital and ask to meet with someone or speak with someone to dispute some of these charges. "We don't do that. You must mail your disputation to us."
No problem. Print out a nice letter complete with graphs and charts and a request to discuss such asinine charges and wait...
Finally, get a phone call. "Sorry. State of California says we have to charge that amount. Oh, and by the way, we found a couple more charges we forgot to charge you for so your bill just went up to $3714!"
They offer to re-bill the insurance company to which I reply, go ahead, won't do any good. We are responsible for these charges and would like to negotiate a payment that is equitable to both parties.
They re-bill the insurance company anyways.
On top of all of this, I am offering to make some kind of monetary payment to keep the collection agency they sicced on me who kept calling every Monday at 8 a.m. and sending me letters every month off my back. Nope. Don't send any money, it will just mess up our system.
Greeaaat...now it looks like I'm a delinquent!
Finally get someone to call off the collection agency dogs. She says she'll kick it up the food chain and not to worry, I should hear back in a couple of weeks.
Two months go by.
I open the mail today...1/7/08 to find another nasty-gram from the hospital via the collection agency. For $3495.
Soooo...I get on the phone and rant.
I rant hard.
I rant loud.
I use words you shouldn't use in polite company.
I escalate the call.
I get told it's the insurance companies problem, they haven't notified the hospital. You should call Blue Cross and see what's going on.
The nice computer at Blue Cross says they've received 3 statements from SRMC, two were denied (no duh...we didn't meet the deductible.) one was sent back "approved, patient is responsible for the $3225."
Gee...didn't I say that way back in June?!
I file an appeal via Blue Cross against the hospital then call back to the hospital to let them know what's coming down the pike and again, ask for someone who can help me resolve this issue.
Finally...I get someone who has the authority to do something on the phone. I give him the Reader's Digest version and he says, "No problem. Let me cut the bill in half and you pay by the 31st."
Great...that's all I wanted. Someone to make a decision. Someone to work with me on this bill. Someone who wouldn't give me the corporate run-around. Someone who responds well to threats of lawsuits and a phone call to "60 Minutes"!!
Seriously. How hard would it have been to simply say, "Sure, you want to pay but aren't going to be raped by outrageous charges that both you and I know are what's wrong with the health care system in America today. You and I can meet at such-and-such a day at such-and-such a time to discuss this issue."
Oh, I see. It doesn't work that way.
So now the gals that answer the phone at Patient Services at Shasta Regional Medical Center think I'm some kind of raging lunatic who doesn't want to pay his bills. Far from it. I started out calm, explaining in plain English, what do I need to do to get this resolved plus stating that I was standing my ground about not paying the full $70 for a cold pack (they're $4.99+tax at Walgreen's!). I ended up ranting like a lunatic!
Right in the middle of today's rant, I quickly thought, "What's my BP now!?" It was 110/70 this morning at the doctor's office. I'm sure it was much higher 30 minutes ago!