I don’t trust medical billing services…

Medical bills need a special level of attention. Not only don’t I trust the insurance company to do the right thing, but I also don’t trust the medical billing services that most of the local health providers use.

From the insurance company angle, I have to be alert to denials of coverage that shouldn’t have been issued. The denial always seems to be in direct proportion to the amount of the bill. (Higher the bill the more likely it will be denied.) This is just an occasional thing.

The worst part of keeping track of medical bills are the billing services. Most of them are either totally inept or totally criminal.

Some of the screwy things I have seen include:

1) Treating my insurance co-pay as if it were the disbursement from the insurance company and then trying to collect from me the funds that the insurance company already sent them. This is subtle and sneaky.

2) Similar to the above except the insurance plan “write off” (if less than the disbursement) is entered as the disbursement. Again they are trying to collect the same money the insurance company already sent them.

3) Sending bills in two totally different styles a week apart. The billing service for the major hospital in the area does this. First you get a simple black and white bill, then about a week later you get a fancy light blue bill for the same visit. If you are not paying attention you could end up paying twice. When I did this once, they politely held on to my money until I figured it out on my own. They refunded my money, but I had to discover the mistake and ask for it.

4) This is the newest one… The billing office calls demanding payment before any bill of any sort ever is sent to you. They make it sound as if the account is going to go to collections if you don’t make arrangements over the phone right then and there. Then… a few days later, the bill arrives in the mail. The timing makes me think that it is mailed the same day the call is made. Again, if you are not careful, you could double pay the bill.

5) The worst is when they apply a payment to the wrong bill. It seems to always happen when the billing service has already implemented trick #1 or #2 above and they want to confuse you so that you do not notice the switch. This was so bad at one point that for one payment I sent in, they were taking a few dollars from it and spreading it across six or seven different bills, none of which had the same billing account number as the one sent in with the payment. At this point, I was still trying to accommodate the errors and to make sure that the amounts still balanced. When one nasty hairball of cross posting amounts and misapplying insurance disbursements finally foiled even my skills of logic to untangle, Doris convinced me to demand that they correct it all on their end. So I waited until the inevitable call came from the billing service to demand payment. I then looked up the bill, and gave the person the check number that I payed it with, and told them it was already paid. When they started the song and dance that the money had been applied elsewhere and that I still needed to pay it, I held my ground and insisted that they correct the numbers on their end because “I had already paid THAT bill.” For months the same kind of calls happened over and over. Sometimes they fixed the numbers, sometimes not. I kept paying the bills that I knew I owed, but not any in the hairball. This kept up until they threatened me with sending it to collections. At this point I collected all my paperwork and physically marched into the billing office and loudly started exposing their ineptitude and/or dirty tricks. After only a few minutes a manager, whose voice I recognized from many telephone calls, came bustling out of her inner sanctum and jotted down my name, etc. and told me she would personally see that it was all straightened out and that I should have just called instead of harassing her staff. I pulled a sheet of paper and started listing the dates that I had spoken specifically with her about this same issue. She actually yelped. I demanded to see a complete billing statement for all five of my family members for the entire year when she was finished.

The tricks or “mistakes” keep happening, but now I just blast them and make them correct their “accounting” error immediately.

My previous method of keeping track of everything was overly complex, and was designed to help me work around they games they played with my money. Now that I am no longer playing along, I needed a simpler system; especially now that I have a child living out of state. I sat down last weekend and set up a simple “in, pending, out” filing system for each member of the family. I sorted every medical bill from this year into the apprpriate file folders, and all is good. Now I’ll be able to lay my hands on all the records quickly for when those pesky billing calls interrupt dinner.

Scratch Things #32 and #33 from my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days.

32. Organize medical bills
33. Create better system for keeping track of medical expenses

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