Friday, October 14, 2005

That's EBCR0089, bitch

Continuing its fascinating health care series, the New York Times bring us a piece on health care billing that makes you want to tear your hair out just reading it. It's chock full of quotes like this:
There were so many envelopes - some of them very thick - that at first, Mrs. Klausner, 77, could not bring herself to open them, and she stored them in large shopping bags in her Manhattan apartment.

When she finally did open some of the envelopes, there were pages filled with dozens of carefully detailed items, each accompanied by a service code: "Partial thrombo 2300214 102.00," "KUB Flat 2651040 466.00."

On the 15th page or so of each bill, a "balance forward" line listed amounts in the tens of thousands of dollars. One totaled $77,858.04.

Ouch. But that's just some old lady in the New York Times. I mean, how realistic can this situation be? Let's hear from my commentors:
I had decided against the operation and so the bill was a measily $220; which an insurance phone rep had promised to pay, but then refused to pay until I harrassed them for two whole years.

They kept telling me that they would research it and for me to call back the next month, but when I'd call back, they wouldn't know anything either, and we'd start all over again. And somehow, all my letters kept getting lost, though each phone rep insisted that the letters couldn't get lost, and that I must have sent it to the wrong place. They also insisted that they didn't make mistakes; as did the ortho clinic. And the whole time, I was being harrassed by the clinic. They even sent me to a collections guy, who I finally paid.

And even after the insurer paid, the clinic insisted for four more months that they hadn't been, and wouldn't reimburse me (for some reason,the insurer refused to reimburse me directly). And the clinic eventually ripped me off for the $40 that they had paid the collections people to collect my money. So basically, I paid a collections guy to harrass me for money that I didn't really owe. And the whole time, both the insurance company and the ortho clinic acted as if I was some jerk trying to rip them off; rather than acknowledging that they had ripped me off. I never got an apology from anyone.

And to top it all, I still have the bone chip in my elbow! But I'd rather have the bone chip than the large bills I would have gotten, had I elected for the surgery.

Hmm...maybe there are people other than old ladies with this trouble. Wait, what's this?
"I'm the president's senior adviser on health information technology, and when I get an E.O.B. for my 4-year-old's care, I can't figure out what happened, or what I'm supposed to do," said Dr. David Brailer, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, whose office is in the Department of Health and Human Services. "I can't figure out what care it was related to or who did what."

Oh my God. When I do finally have this surgery, I'm screwed.

Luckily I've been down this road before. It took me a year (in 2003) to get my insurance company to actually pay for physical therapy visits that they approved in the first place.

But hey, it's the best system in the world, I mean, I'm totally satisfied, aren't you?


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