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Archive: February 2014

A St. Baldrick’s Appeal From Carolyn

I’m turning this post over to my eldest daughter, Carolyn, who has a favor to ask of you.

My name is Carolyn Maxwell Meyer and I would like to tell you about something going on in my life, and about my sister, Rebecca.  My sister Rebecca is 5 years old and loves to play with our little brother Joshua who is 3 years old.  We all like to sing, dance, and play with friends, but we do not live a normal life, because Rebecca is undergoing treatment for a rare brain cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma.

To help Rebecca and all the other children with cancer, I’m raising money for childhood cancer research during the St. Baldrick’s Shave-A-Thon.  I’m captaining my Elementary School team, Roxboro Cares, and shaving all my hair off my head to raise money for childhood cancer research.

Did you know that kids’ cancers are very different from adult cancers?  And childhood cancer research is extremely underfunded?  So I decided to do something about it by participation in the St. Baldricks Shave-A-Thon.

Now I need your help.  Will you please make a donation?  Every dollar makes a difference for thousands and thousands of children, including my sister.  All infants, toddlers, school aged, teens, and young adults fighting childhood cancers need your help.

Having a sister with cancer sometimes makes me feel like I’m alone in a dark room and no one will come and get me out.  Please donate to help raise money so other sisters never have to feel this way.

If you can help support Carolyn’s efforts, either by donating to her directly or to the Roxboro Cares team, we would all be most grateful—almost as proud as we are of Carolyn.

Bill Killed

Despite today being a U.S. holiday (so no mail delivery today, folks!), both my insurer’s customer care department and the hospital’s billing department were open, and I was able to confirm that:

  1. There should be no patient responsibility for the bill in question, and;
  2. The hospital sent the bill in error, and it should be disregarded.

My guess, which I couldn’t get officially confirmed, is that because the bill was for a claim that had been under review for a couple of months, some bit got inadvertently flipped during the review process, making the system think that we were responsible for the bills instead of our insurer.  I’ve worked with computers and people long enough to have that feel like a plausible scenario.

So that’s that, it would seem.  Of course, if I get another such bill, I need to call the hospital back and ask them what’s up, but at least now I have confirmation that my plan prohibits “balance billing”, as it’s called.  (And thanks to commenter dj for that information!)  So if I get a similar bill in the future—that is, one that says I’m responsible for charges beyond co-pays and the like—I can bypass the insurer and just call the hospital.  Not that I have a burning need to bypass them; I actually really like my insurer.  Their customer service people are knowledgeable and friendly, and their headquarters is right downtown so I could drop by in person, if I ever felt the need.

I’m lucky, because I can afford to have health insurance, and far more lucky that I have access to a group plan through COSE that takes care of so much of the cost of preserving Rebecca’s health.  (I’ve worked hard, yes, but I’ve also been incredibly lucky.  The two are not mutually exclusive.)  If the biggest cost I have to pay is the time it takes to sort out the occasional billing snafu, it will be one of the first things I list at the Thanksgiving table this November, and every November to come.

Kill Bill

Sometimes, it feels like the whole system is stacked against you and your peace of mind.  (Some would say that’s because it is.)

For example, this evening after dinner I opened up the mail.  One of the envelopes was clearly a hospital bill.  That’s not unusual, despite our having very good insurance, because there are co-pays and so forth.  Even if you regularly go see a specialist who is managing your radiation therapy, say, that’s an office visit.  Co-pay.  So we’re used to getting bills for $30 or $75 or whatever.

Anyway, I opened this one up and it took me a few seconds to find the amount due, because I thought it was yet another opaque identification number and my eyes kept skipping over it.  Once I finally managed to focus on the right spot, using the text labels as a guide, I confirmed that it said we owed the hospital $122,519.95.

Yeah.

Before anyone rushes off to set up a fundraising campaign, let me explain that I believe this is a billing error, and we won’t actually have to pay it.  You see, I was able to track down two entries on my most recent benefits statement from our insurance company that directly relate to this bill.  For a collection of procedures and treatments, the hospital had billed the insurance company a total of $350,057.01.  (Which is a little more than a fifth of the total ‘retail’ cost of treatment to date, as it happens.)  The insurance company indicated that the provider had accepted $227,537.06 as payment in full, and that we were responsible for $0.00.  The difference between the billed (retail) cost and the accepted cost is, surprise surprise, $122,519.95.

So this is most likely some sort of coding error at the hospital’s billing department, and once I talk to them, it’ll be cancelled.  I HOPE.  Because I really would dislike being erroneously sent to collections for a six-figure sum, and my credit rating would probably hate it too.

This has of course added to my stress, because even the faint prospect of having to cough up $122,519.95 is worrisome, and the possibility of being sent to collections due to someone’s screw-up is even more worrisome.  And I can’t even get started on dealing with it until Tuesday morning, because the billing department has very white-collar hours and Monday is President’s Day.  It’s not going to drive me bat-guano crazy, but it is going to annoy me, having that very large figure sit there, unaddressed, for three days.  Three days out of nine, by the way: the due date on the bill is February 23rd.

Oh, but—and this is actually the part where my mouth twisted into an ugly line—if the bill is paid within 30 days of receipt, it qualifies for a 20% “prompt pay” discount.  Because hey, we say it’s due by such-and-so date, but if you pay by a date later than that but still soon, we’ll only make you pay $98,015.96!  Such a bargain!  Act now, before this amazing deal is history!  Because if we can entice you into quickly paying us money that’s not actually owed, we can take our sweet, sweet time giving it back to you when it turns out the bill was wrong.

Assuming it’s wrong, that is.

So come Tuesday morning, I have to call the hospital’s billing department to see if they agree with my assessment and can clear everything up, and if they don’t then I call the advocate at my insurer to see if they can help me out, and probably have to fax document to one or both places, and generally burn time I don’t have to deal with stress I don’t need.  Because why not add more stress to the situation?  It’s not like dealing with potentially life-threatening pediatric cancer wasn’t stressful enough, heavens no.  Why not add the specter of credit ruination and/or bankruptcy to the proceedings?  You know, for the lulz.

Yes, if it turns out that I actually do have to pay this bill, I will indeed set up a fundraising page.  I know there are people ready and willing to help us, and that makes all this a lot easier to cope with.  You can’t even imagine how much that helps mitigate the stress.  But I keep thinking about all the people in similar situations who don’t have that kind of posse at their back, and who can’t afford good (or any) insurance.  What do they do when a bill for $350,057.01 arrives, and they know that it’s all theirs?

AEA Orlando: Special Edition

Yesterday, the team at An Event Apart unveiled a special addition to our schedule: a Special Edition event, to be held at The Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World this coming October 27-29, 2014.  That’s right: we’ll be there during both the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom.  If you’ve never been to the Halloween Party, you should make it a point to go.  It’s really great.  The Imagineers go all-out to add fun Halloween touches all over the park, perfectly pitched to be spooky while still being, well, not so scary.  And as for the Food & Wine Festival, yum!  It’s actually where I discovered the one form of alcohol I can stand, and there are some great food stalls scattered all around the World Showcase.

But of course, you’ll really want to be there for An Event Apart!  We’re adding a lot of new and interesting enhancements to this show.  In addition to the brand-new Gold Pass, which includes (among other things) a backstage tour of Walt Disney World, AEA Orlando: Special Edition will feature three full days of talks, eighteen speakers in all.  I’m incredibly pleased and excited to say that I’ll be among them, delivering a talk on design.  Yes.

As regular readers know, I’ve had to withdraw from almost all travel and speaking this year, including for An Event Apart, and it’s been tough to be away.  I love what Jeffrey and I have created.  I love being there to hang out with other members of the tribe.  I love being able to learn from the best and share a piece of what I know.  It was absolutely the right decision to stay home with my family in this time, but still.  I miss being there, and I can’t wait to return.

And when I do, I’ll be presenting not about CSS, but about design and how to do it better.  Specifically, the talk is called “Designing for Crisis”, which draws on my experiences of the past seven months to illustrate how design can let people down when they most need its help, show examples of design that does help people in crisis, and explore ways to approach design in order to not let those people down.  Because if you’re helping people in crisis, you’ll be helping those who aren’t in crisis as well.

It’s a big departure for me.  For many a year now, I’ve been the guy who geeks out onstage over trippy selectors and obscure browser bugs.  You know, a CSS nerd.  But as I considered whether I had anything to say in Orlando (and at Rustbelt Refresh, which invited me to speak around the same time), I slowly realized that this talk was in my head and that I was incredibly passionate about getting it out.  I could see the narrative, the lessons I could underscore with it, and the advice I would give to designers.  I haven’t been this consumed by a talk in quite a while.

I hope you’ll be there to see and hear it, but even if that doesn’t sound entirely like your cup of tea, there are seventeen other amazing speakers filling up all three days—Karen McGrane, Mike Monteiro, Jenn Lukas, Luke Wroblewski, Jaimee Newberry, Scott Berkun, and so many more.  We have the complete schedule up now, so go, bathe in the awesome and make your plans to join us!

(P.S.  If it will take you a while to get approval, better start the ball rolling now.  We’ve already had a number of registrations in the 30 hours since we made the surprise announcement, and this event being as new and different as it is, we honestly don’t know long tickets will last.)

February 2014
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