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:
- There should be no patient responsibility for the bill in question, and;
- 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.