The business of medicine and health insurance is dark and dirty. That’s what it is. A multi-billion dollar business. And all of it is set up to benefit, not the patients, but the people who run the business. All aspects of it are run by MDs, people who went tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to graduate from medical school. Not to be doctors, and help people, but to manage doctor’s offices, hospitals, research centers and insurance companies to ensure that every last penny is collected from people who go to them needing help with their health. It’s beyond ugly.
While I’m about to tell you more than you probably need to know about how this works, please don’t worry. I have this taken care of. It just makes me really angry that they are getting away with this and there is no recourse for people who can’t afford their medical bills but to take out loans, borrow from 401ks, or end up not paying and going into bankruptcy.
Just 3 months into my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I have bills for about $2000 in labs and other uncovered expenses across 2 separate bills. For 2 of these 3 months, the hospital, due to errors on their own part, had my billing address wrong in their records so I didn’t receive any bills. First problem: they refuse to accept any responsibility for this error. A week later, I received a robocall after hours telling me that my bill was so far past due they would send it to collections if I didn’t pay the balance immediately. I then received a notice from a collections agency dated February 1st that my account is in collections. This means they didn’t wait for me to respond to their single robocall to send my account to collections. When talking with the billing department, the only options they’re willing to give patients with a balance is to break the balance into 3 payments, or offer an application to a service like Charity Care or Clear Pay where you would have to qualify to receive help with your bills. Hint: I won’t qualify for either. It seems so odd that they refuse to work with patients on a payment plan that fits a person’s budget better. They just simply expect that you have thousands of dollars at your disposal to hand them when the bill come, and most of us just don’t have that kind of cash lying around.
This, folks, is how people without decent health insurance or enough savings for an emergency end up in bankruptcy. No other industry works like this, and because this one is so awful, people are willing to go without medical treatment that could save their lives because these practitioners are not willing to actually work with people to get the bills paid. This isn’t right and it needs to be fixed.
What’s more insulting are the MDs running private practices that are now invoking contracts with patients that if they miss a single payment for service, their account will be sent to collections, and the patient’s relationship with their doctor terminated. That’s right. They will drop you like a hot potato. Over $25 (or maybe less). How these people all sleep at night is beyond me.
Update 2/9/18: There is another group of people to talk to at Virginia Mason, and there is a way to get on a payment plan that isn’t so limited as the hospital initially offered. This plan is offered through a 3rd party, payments start at 4% of the balance or $50, the first year is interest free and they do not send your information to a credit reporting agency. I am not positive how it would work with a ginormous bill, but for a smaller amount, it should be workable, at least for many people.