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?

1 comment:

Desembarazarme said...

I LOL'd at the last line. And I never really knew that billing could be that erroneous, but that's insane.

I wish I could get my shit together enough to have different Blogger logins for different things.