Thursday, July 28, 2011

I am Mad.

I had surgery last month, and I received the billings for it. Different departments have their own billing system, which is confusing. I have four bills for four different departments within the same hospital. The bills are not yet due. Not one of them.

Imagine my surprise to answer the phone two or three days ago, and find an that it was an automated call. The hospital 'needed to speak with me about my open account.' I waited patiently, and pushing the appropriate buttons to be connected to the proper department. After waiting, I was told that they were experiencing a higher number of calls that usual, and the nice automated machine suggested that I leave a number where I could be reached, which I did.

Remember: these are not overdue. These bills are not yet even thirty days old.

The call was returned, but of course, it came in while I was at work. I came home from work to discover the call. They needed to speak with me about my account.

I called this morning and spoke with 'Melissa' who explained to me that I had multiple accounts open with the hospital. "Yes," I explained. "I know. I've got the bills in front of me now."

She wondered if I planned on paying these bills.

(WHAT????!!!!!!) Remember: these are not overdue bills. They have a due date on them, but they are not yet due. I was starting to become angry. "Yes. We will pay these bills. We always pay our bills."

She chirpily tells me that if I would like to pay these bills, right now, I could make that payment with her, FOR FREE.

"I wasn't aware that the hospital charged you for making a payment."

She is getting a little impatient. "I just said the payment was free."

"I heard you," I said. "But it would be free when I go down to make the payments next week. It's always free to make the payments."

She determined that I would not be making payment this day.

I remind you, once again, not one of these four bills are overdue. They are not even due. Not until next week.

After speaking with her, I called the hospital to complain about being dunned for payment for a bill not yet due. It was a courtesy call from an outside agency I am told. Just in case I need to set up payment arrangements.

The total amount of these not yet due bills is $450. I found the courtesy call very discourteous. I found it insulting, actually to be dunned for bills not yet due. If I need to set up payment arrangements, I would have responsibly contacted the hospital myself. If they had checked our records, they would have found all bills paid promptly and in full. There was no reason for this call.

The head of the department tells me that it was not rude, and that it how it is done. She herself gets those calls. As if that's supposed to make me feel better. "I don't know how much experience you have with our hospital..." she begins.

"I'm a cancer patient," I say. I do not say 'I have more experience with your hospital than I actually want, thank you.' It was on the tip of my tongue though. I tried hard to be polite.

She matter of factly tells me that it will be done like this. That's how they do it now. She tells me that actually the young girl was correct. They do charge late fees, so I could have avoided all of that by simply making the payment with her. FOR FREE. I tell her that she is comparing apples and oranges. The accounts are not overdue, therefore there will be no late fees, therefore payment is free. Just as it always is. She tells me that she's not sure what to tell me.

I tell her that Warren General Hospital has lost a client.

She says she's sorry that I feel that way.

She's not, not really. I can tell. But she said the words.

I hung up the phone.

Remember: the bills are not even due yet.


Anonymous said...

I have received collection letters on hospital accounts for which I have not even received a bill yet. Must be something about hospitals

Jill said...

When we were down in Durango, Colorado a few years ago I had an accident and had to go to the hospital there. I am Canadian and had insurance to cover this. By the time I got home a week later there were bills coming in. I told them our insurance company was paying them. We then proceeded to get notices from a collection agency. I called my insurance company and was informed they had paid it. I continued to get bills for quite awhile...finally my insurance company here dealt with the whole situation there.
Sure hope I never have to use hospital services in the States again...I was not impressed.

Mikey said...

Unbelievable! I think that's VERY rude. But what I'm seeing in this country is a whole lot of that. Rude, ugly, nasty behavior on a whole new level. *shaking head* that's just not right.

Jayne said...

When Dad was away on holiday a few years ago we received a bill for his medical treatment at a tiny country hospital before he even got home; a rude, tersely worded invoice demanding immediate payment sent barely 24 hours after he was in there....despite the fact they had Dad's Veteran Affairs Gold Card (which gave him free/mostly free medical care).
When I rang and pointed it out to them they realised the mistake and told me to bin it, that someone in the billing dept had obviously not paid attention to the details in front of them.

WhiteStone said...

What a pain in the patootey!

Our billing office is more cooperative than that. Now and then they goof up and send the item to medicare and insurance with the wrong billing which case the bill gets turned down and the balance due is then "ours". So I call the office, they say, "Ooops! We'll resubmit..". And the bill goes away. They've always been very cooperative that way.

Sorry your outfit is moving into "pain in the patootey" territory. Sigh!

Saying you can "pay for free". Indeed! What kind of fools do they think we are? Some young upstart fresh out of college thought up that one. Betcha. roflol

Caroline said...

That was rude and deceptive of them to call. I would complain in writing to the hospital and tell them why they lost a patient.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I plan to do one better that writing the hospital. I've already called them, and was told (nicely) "Tough beans, this is how we do it now." They are not interested. My concern is that elderly patients be aware that an outside agency is representing themselves as being a part of the hospital, but they are not. This is deceptive. They subtly pressure you for immediate payment if you refuse to set up an account through them.

I do know that what flitted across my mind is "Gees. I don't want the hospital to be mad at me." I think that a person with health problems is going to be pretty vulnerable to that sort of pressure if they believe that the pressure is coming from the hospital itself. Even if their bill is not due. ~ Debby

Anonymous said...

Is this the result of many people "charging" it and paying interest? Used to be that WGH gave a 10% discount if the bill was paid within 30 days. The times they are achanging, not for the better. I had hoped our little community would remain concerned for people and not the almighty dollar. I enjoy your writing so much! Judy

A Novel Woman said...

I'm so glad you challenged them on this. I hate this sort of corporate bullying. You know, it could have been worse. Our internet/cable company is notoriously rude. One day I had problems with my internet connection. I called, and I could tell the woman was in a bad mood. So I was careful and polite and explained the problem. She sighed, her voice tight with frustration as she tried to fix the problem. Despite her instructions, it still wasn't working, so she said look behind the monitor for the yellow wire. I said there is no yellow wire. She insisted there WAS, but I said no, honestly, there is a gray one, a black one, a blue one but no yellow one. She then said, and I quote, "MADAME, YOU ARE PISSING ME OFF!" To say I was shocked is an understatement, but I said quietly "That is not how you talk to a customer, please transfer me to your supervisor." She hung up. When I called back (natch) they said "You have to understand, we deal with a lot of stupid people every day, and sometimes we get very tired." Seriously? This is your apology?!

Anonymous said...

Judy ~ that's the funny part. We are eligible for the discount when we pay it off. I don't understand why it was turned over to a collection agency. But it was. Researching the company, that is exactly what they are: a collection agency. It seems quite obvious that a mistake has been made, that these accounts were turned over in error (the due dates ranged from 30 July to 8 Aug), but the hospital insists that this is perfectly acceptable. I'm appalled that the group represents itself as being WGH accounting office; it's rather like getting one of those e-mails from a lawyer in London who wants you to know that you've won a sweepstakes, but you have to contact someone in Nigeria...I'm trying to get permission to write something for the paper, but Eric hasn't responded. We're saving the bills as proof.