Tuesday, October 27, 2009

payment not due upon receipt

the elzer family legacy revealed

I'm not up to date on what's happening with the health care reform issue these days. I see the articles in the NY Times, I start to read the articles, and I promptly give up and move on to simpler pastures. As a frequent user of the health care system, it would behoove me to pay closer attention, but I've yet to find the patience to follow along.

Something else I don't have patience for is calling my insurance company to help me dissect the mound of medical bills on my coffee table (I leave them laying around so that eventually I'll get tired of envelopes spilling onto the floor and call the appropriate money sucking institution).

Today, I decided to tackle the pile. My usual strategy for the payment process is to scan the bill, attempt to decode the line items that indicate a payment responsibility and then write the check while cursing to an empty room (for the health of my relationship, it's best to do these things alone). The coward in me doesn't usually make a phone call to check on bills that are confusing or seem incorrect unless the balance is outrageous (e.g. the $990 bill that I received for 6 months and continued to receive after 3 phone calls to remedy the situation). I know, it's a horrible philosophy, and I'm sure I've padded more than my share of health care system's bottomless pockets. But today, when I started shuffling through the account statements, I got increasingly annoyed at just how much money I was expected to pay.

For example, I went to the ER at the beginning of the summer and paid a $150 co-pay for the visit. I received a bill from the hospital asking me to pay an additional $224. That would bring the grand total for my 4 hour visit in which I spent approximately 3 minutes talking to an ER doc to $374. Not even I, the supreme avoider of the phone, am willing to pay that much to circumvent having to explain the situation to my insurance company. One of the advantages to detesting the phone is that I have developed a very effective way of communicating the information that will get me off the phone the fastest. I can reduce a convoluted medical billing saga into about 3 sentences. Granted, it doesn't increase the likelihood that I will actually make the phone call, but when I finally do, the economy of words verges on graceful.

Five minutes after picking up the phone, I have explained the situation to Blue Cross, they've called the ignoramus hospital billing office, and the financial burden is no longer mine. You see, there's this little thing called a prefix in my insurance ID, and oh, by the way, it's kind of important. If you don't use it when filing a claim, the bill just sits in the local Blue Cross circuit taking little bites out of my credit score.

I remember from one of the few articles I've read on the subject that an overwhelming percentage of medical bills contain errors. I can attest to this fact because approximately half of the bills I've received in the last 3 months have been inaccurate in some fashion. If I'd gone about paying them with the usual haste, I would have shelled out upwards of $500 in erroneous charges.

Who knew channeling your Jewish girlfriend could be so lucrative?

Monday, October 26, 2009

not an idiot free zone

fall foliage, eh?

I observed a meeting today in which I heard the phrase "data free zone." It was mentioned in the context of basically flying blind and having no baseline data with which to formulate an evaluation of department functionality and employee productivity. (how's that for vague industrial organizational speak? it was more interesting than that, but this is the obscure, safe-for-the-internet version)

Lately it feels like I've been making decisions from a data free zone. This might sound counterintuitive to anyone who has witnessed the tower of index cards I've been studying for the last month. But memorizing the levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs has done little in the way of illuminating my own needs. Do I need a career path (read: letters after my name and a 10 year plan) or do I just need a job? Do I need to go back to a head shrinker or do I just need to find a way to hang out with a dog (or 4) every now and then? Do I need to read the blogs in my Monday/Wednesday folder or do I need to start putting a little more time and attention into my own creativity? (finally, a simple question)

Do I need to look up grad school application deadlines or can I just make them up and check on them after I take the subject test GRE? A crucial question that I failed to answer correctly. Apparently the ballpark January dates that I had floating around in my head were a little off. Far enough off that I have run for the hills of pusillanimity. (okay, I had to look that one up to make sure I used it correctly, but it has a nice ring to it doesn't it?) You may be thinking, December? That's 4 weeks from now. You can do so much in 4 weeks! And I'm thinking, wow that scorched smell must be coming from my new Nikes. Better go jump in a lake.

Or as my new spanish idiom book from the library says: mandรณ al diablo*

*the idioms don't account for the idiots trying to apply them to different verb tenses, so I know there's something wrong with the verb. i may have just told all of you to go jump in a lake. sorry.