Jun. 20th, 2015

mellowtigger: (Daria)
We can't have nice things in the USA.  I wish I lived somewhere civilized that had a single-payer health care system that "collects all medical fees, then pays for all services, through a 'single' government (or government-related) source."  But, no.  Instead, we have a convoluted bureaucratic nightmare that is ripe for exploitation.

I had sinus surgery back in January.  It's public knowledge, since I blogged about it.  Many bills arrived later.  I paid all of them except for one curious letter that arrived from people I didn't know and a place I didn't know, wanting money.  There was no  privileged information in that letter, so I treated it like I do all spam email that I receive: I trashed it.

Months later, a bill collection agency tries to collect.  Once again, they say a person I don't know wants money, but nobody can offer any definitive information to help me confirm their authenticity.  Again, I refuse to pay, but at least this time I'm willing to put some effort into an investigation of the claim.

It required 2 calls to my surgeon's office, 2 calls to my insurance provider, and 2 visits to the hospital, but I finally got a claim number that I could verify.  Here's the trail of shame for the rickety medical billing system currently in use:
  • My surgeon's office had no contact information for the anesthesiologist.  How did they arrange for him to show up at my surgery?  Who knows?
  • My first call to my insurance provider (Aetna) offered only one name for anesthesiology, but it wasn't the doctor's name; it was a nurse's.
  • My hospital does include a listing for the doctor (Mark Lantz), but the information is all wrong.
  • The listed phone number (763-520-5370) is "disconnected or no longer in service".
  • It includes a webpage (apanorth.com), but it's also useless.  The webpage offers no contact information for the doctor.
  • The webpage includes its own email contact (feedback@apanorth.com), but the email bounces.
  • The webpage includes a brick-and-mortar address at the hospital itself, but the information desk at the hospital knows nothing about the group.
So, somebody wants money from me, but it is...
  1. somebody with no phone contact,
  2. somebody with no email contact, and
  3. somebody with no viable street address.
Once again, I feel perfectly justified in treating this demand for money as an unlawful attempt to wrangle money from my pocket.  This complete lack of verifiable accountability is why internet email is so filled with spam.  An unscrupulous person could easily get rich by getting a virus onto a computer for a hospital or billing service.  They can start writing paper letters to people they learn have had medical procedures done.  People will willingly write them checks for no good reason.  It's terrible.

On my first visit back to the hospital (their customer service was great!), I was able to get printouts for the anesthesiologist report and the billing report.  At least I could verify the doctor's name, but nothing provided any trail to verify the claim against me.  On my second visit back to the hospital (again, their customer service was great!) a billing person was able to connect me by phone to the doctor's billing person.  Finally, at long last, I had a reliable trail of contact to someone with knowledge of this bill.  I got a claim ticket number that they had filed with my insurance provider.

I called my insurance provider again, and this time they were able follow that claim number and give me confirmation of this bill.  I called back the bill collector and gave them my bank routing information so they could file an electronic draft immediately.  I still don't know anything about the bill collector other than the phone number (651-287-6137), but I'm tired of investigating and just want this mess to end.  Afterwards, I was so stressed out and drained from this escapade that I went to bed and slept 6pm-1am.

This is the healthcare system that we have in the USA.  It's awful.  And I'm sick again, this time with something new that's affecting my throat.  Happy, happy, joy, joy.

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