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.
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?