Deciphering our medical bills: Ha!

Do medical systems do this on purpose? Do they want us confused with our bills, or do they just want us to pay them … which we often do, hoping insurance will help.

A few questions:

1. Why should medical facilities be allowed to write bills in acronyms/codes (NOS, DOC, REV, GAC, G8427 ….)? No one let me use acronyms in professional journals and my graduate students weren’t allowed to use military acronyms or internet abbreviations.

2. Why should I have to defend an incorrect charge? Shouldn’t the clinic/hospital do that since they either made the error or can’t explain it? Must I have to file a grievance for each incorrect charge (like a PKU newborn test {I am not a newborn!} or a flu shot), neither of which I had? Should I simply pay the bill when I am told a charge is for the room during my annual wellness visit? (Should my exam be in the parking lot?) Thus, I spend five full months discussing this “room” charge with medical personnel, e.g., human services, doctors, nurses, coding personnel –while being threatened with collections. Miraculously, I am then told the charge isn’t for the room but that my bill was split into two parts: professional and technical and am then told no more questions would be answered for me. Are these personnel afraid they may be wrong or perhaps, don’t know what the charges are for, or are they thinking: all would be well if she would just pay her bill?

3. I had two surgeries in La Crosse in the last year and each case resulted in worse damage.  When I requested compensation to correct such, it was denied and I was told I’d need to pay over again to correct the damage —  aside from suffering from the damage.

4. Also, I just received a bill for surgery I had out east. Of the 12 charges listed on the bill, 10 were incorrect (eg., charged for mammography when I didn’t have one) and the two charges I understood (surgery for a malignancy and new patient charge) were confusing, stating: “Insurance paid” but also “Insurance pending.”)

Eventually, I must walk into these places saying, “I am not a dumb woman; do not treat me as such.” Then I explain I will only pay bills that are explained in writing and understood by me. (To date, at seven months, I still do not know what my two previous extra charges are for as I have no written explanation, except the “professional and technical” comment.

Our La Crosse medical facilities are good (though could be better and more reasonably priced if they stopped competing with each other), but they are not above honesty or reproach; the same goes for other medical systems. As clients, we need to understand our costs and expect correction in failed procedures; if we do not, our bills and health risks are fraudulent messes which we should not accept or pay for. This debate may become my full-time occupation. 

KAY RUTHERFORD

La Crosse, Wis.