Yesterday, I received a shocking piece of mail: a collections letter in the amount of $40 that Allegheny General Hospital claimed that I owed. My first reaction when I saw the collections letter was shock and then quickly moved to blind fury. I have never been sent to collections, and I certainly would never duck out on a $40 bill. I've paid all my other bills and co-pays, so what the hell happened?
I called Allegheny General Hospital's billing department a call first. The rep was unsympathetic to my request for help and an explanation as to how it happened. I quickly went into snide, bitch mode with her when I figured out she had no interest in helping me. I admit, it's not the best way to deal with hospital billing departments, but when you mess with my credit, I will cut a bitch. The rep repeatedly said, "Well, there isn't anything I can do. My notes have showed that we have talked with you about this."
"No, you haven't," I argued and then a light bulb went off in my head. "Oh, you mean all the robo-calls you have been sending my phone?"
"What do you mean 'robo-calls'?" she countered. "We talked to you."
"No, you did not. I received a handful of automated messages telling me to call back Allegheny General Hospital at whatever number," I said.
"Well, that's how the billing department operates. You had to call us back."
"Are you kidding me? Nobody calls back robo-calls. My name's been put in some sort of cancer database. I didn't know that you weren't inviting me to some lecture or what. The message was vague."
Her and I went back and forth and it went nowhere fast. She treated me like I was some sort of dead-beat who didn't want to pay back a $40 bill. Bitch, I pay my bills and on time. I actually said to her, "Come on, my situation isn't dire where I can't pay a $40 bill. I've paid all the rest of my bills and you think I'm trying to avoid $40?"
After I got off the phone with her, I called the actual collection agency to talk with them about it. I explained to the rep that I wanted to look into this further, but if I find that I do owe this, I"ll call back and pay it off. No problem. The rep was very helpful and gave me details that the hospital billing department wouldn't: like the doctor I went to see. She also said that I should look at my EOBs and try to figure out what was owed.
"Great idea, thanks. I keep all my EOBs and in chronological order. And they think I didn't pay a bill." The collection agent and I had a nice, hearty laugh.
I went up to my big book of cancer and looked at the EOBs. I found the one in question but the kicker: I went into my old bills and pulled out the most recent one, which was the $40 bill they said I didn't pay. For each hospital bill, I write down the date I paid it and how I paid it (i.e. online or what check number).
I called my dad, who I had been calling throughout the frustrating ordeal, after I confirmed online that I paid the bill, "THOSE FUCKERS SENT ME TO COLLECTION FOR A BILL I PAID. AAAAAAAH."
When I called back the hospital's billing department, I talked to another representative with OUTSTANDING customer service. She tried arguing with me that I didn't pay. "No," I calmly said. "I paid online. I'm looking at proof that you guys received $40 from me."
This rep, Mindy, looked further into my account (taking her all but one minute) and said, "It looks like since you didn't put the account number, it went to another outstanding balance of over $300 you have."
"What other outstanding balance? I haven't received any bills from you guys. If you don't bill me, then how are you to receive money?" I asked her, fuming. "Okay, so you see that I paid the bill that is in collections. You know, messing with my credit."
"Well, that's still owed. Since you didn't write the account number, it went to the other bill. They have different account numbers. You get a different account number for every visit."
"Wait, seriously? Why don't I just have one account, which would avoid confusion like this?"
"That's reserved for patients in long-term care."
"Long-term patients.... like CANCER? Okay, I don't know how 10 plus months of treatment doesn't qualify me as a long-term patient but okay then."
Mindy said that she would take my bill out of collections and actually BILL ME for the $280 I supposedly owe.
What a cluster-fuck of incompetence, unhelpful customer service reps, and a messed up billing system. I've been writing my Cancer Story these past couple of weeks. I think I'm going to devote a couple of chapters on how to deal with the bureaucracy and bullshit that comes with being sick. You don't have to deal with treatment, you get to deal with insurance companies AND hospital billing departments. It's the trifecta of evil.
Allegheny General Hospital of Pittsburgh, I can see now why you are the SECOND-BEST hospital system in Pittsburgh. You truly fucking suck and are incompetent.