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Medical Bill Crapshoot

US paper moneyOne of those frustrating mornings where you’d swear it was Monday.

I just got off the phone with our medical center billing office for the second time today. It seems that the payment we sent three weeks ago never showed up (they think), last month’s payment got applied to an old balance on a different account, and the insurance randomly denied coverage for my husband’s last visit. “And by the way, none of this includes the four mental health care charges still to show up in your second account.”  So, calls back and forth with insurance, paging back through the checkbook, repeating dates and amounts to the billing office ad infinitum, and don’t forget all that lovely time spent on hold before you get a totally new person and have to explain the entire issue again from the beginning.

Result: three calls later, the charges are on hold pending 1) the check showing up, and 2) the insurance company’s payment for the last visit. We won’t even know what the balance is until then, much less whether the check we already sent covers it or not.  Or that they’ll remember to apply any balance, not issue us a credit when we still owe them.

Part of the problem is that our medical center requires that mental health care accounts be separate from family accounts, and I get that. It causes the occasional mix-up, but I understand why they keep them separate. Another problem is that insurance pays erratically, often later than our billing date, giving us the choice of either paying late, or guessing the amount and getting a check back from the clinic … often passing another bill in the mail, leading to even more confusion.

The craziest (if I may use that adjective) part to me is that the insurance company considers my clinic In-Network, but contracts with each practitioner separately. Meaning we have no fricking idea how much we would pay to see Doctor A vs. Doctor B.  There is zero transparency, maximum crapshoot.

The end result is, we occasionally get a credit check in the mail the same week as a message from the billing office that they’re about to send our account to a collection agency.

If the clinic billing office can’t keep it straight, how the heck are we supposed to?

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