Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do I Have a Dollar Sign on My Forehead?

by Leann Sweeney

As you know if you read this blog regularly, I have a few health issues. Fortunately I have great insurance, but the co-pays do add up. So do the supplements that I take to help me stay as healthy as possible. It is difficult to find good practitioners who know a lot about Lyme and fibro and chronic fatigue. By good, I mean knowledgeable, compassionate providers. I have found several who take care of me.

But this past week, after a treatment for my shoulder, I was told as I checked out that there was no record that I had paid for 4 appointments. Nonsense. I paid and I knew I could prove it. But, thanks to some family stresses right now, that was the straw that broke my emotional back. I was in tears by the time I got home. I immediately printed out the receipts for the dates in question, but I was thinking, "Why is this my responsibility? Why aren't they checking with my insurance company or combing through their records to find the answers. After all, there is never one time when I have left that office without paying--and they know it.

Still, that was not all that was going on. Way back when I was an eighteen-year-old kid in Catholic nursing school, I was called into the head nun's office at the end of my first year. If you know anything about nuns back in the day, that's scary! Sister Mary Sheila proceeded to tell me that my parents, after paying the initial tuition that had to be paid before I could get into my dorm room, had never paid another penny. Not for my books, not for the second semester, not for my meals, not for anything. I knew nothing about this, but I really shouldn't have been surprised. (And five years later they did the same thing to my sister.) That's the way they were. But I was mortified and humiliated. The tears began and wouldn't stop. Sister Mary Sheila was very nice, very helpful and we started the paperwork to get my bills paid through other means--grants, loans and a scholarship.

That experience scarred me, and the same feelings of humiliation popped up this past week when this billing issue came up. I was that eighteen-year-old kid again, mortified and confused. I felt reduced to a dollar sign. The upside? I was able to make that connection to "old business." I took the receipts to the doctor's office. Only then did they tell me that in doing their books with a new person in charge of billing, they found many, many mistakes involving many, many patients. But I paid a higher price than any amount of money could rectify that day.

How about you? Are there times when you feel like you have a scarlet dollar sign on your forehead?


Celticlady's Reviews said...

I can certainly understand your medical issues. I also have Fibromyalgia and Cervical Spondylosis and degenerative joint disease in all my joints. My problem is I do have insurance but since I can no longer work, I am paying Cobra rates for insurance. Plus the deductibles..and still in pain.

Tiffany0227 said...

I am really sorry to hear about the medical problems with all of you and I hope and pray for healing. I do understand how it is with the dollar signs. I am not fortunate to have health insurance and I do have a medical condition called endometriosis, which scares me because I have yet to conceive a child. So, I have to suffer it out with doctor bills.
It is not only with medical when they stick to you. Take electric companies for instance. We paid a pretty penny for December's electric bill, 300.00 to be exact so when it came time for January's bills which was 408.00 and it is not paid on time they want to come and shut you off. It really irritates me how they can do that to people who pay their bills they are so quick to punish you for it. We can only have one electric company where we live at, out here in the sticks so you would think they would be a little bit more courteous and cooperative when it comes to paying your 408.00 electric bill.
Bless All of You

Unknown said...

Unfortunately, this happens all to easily and too often. You had mentioned about why they hadn't checked with your insurance company. Thats because doctors offices and clinics do not report the amounts paid by the patients to the insurance company. So the insurance company would never have a record of what you paid. They just "assume" that you paid your portion and go on with their lives.

Having worked in the medical field for way too many years and also being a person with multiple health issues, I have realized one major thing. NEVER pay your copays, deductibles, etc with cash. It is difficult to prove that it was paid unless you happen to save each and every receipt. It is too easy for people in the offices to slip money into their pockets. I have seen it happen too many times. Always pay with credit card or receipt. They have to post it to your account then otherwise, their drawer won't balance at the end of the day.

Most medical offices don't have a checks and balance system in place to make sure that every receipt that was written is accounted for at the end of the day.

Leann Sweeney said...

I knew I wasn't alone! And I am so sorry for the issues you are dealing with, Tiffany and CelticLady. Wakela, you have given me some good insight into how this problem arose! And I am glad to say I always pay with a credit card and that is why I was able to prove so quickly that I had paid up. Still left a bad taste in my mouth, though.

Dru said...

That happened to me a couple of times and I'm not one to keep receipts but the one time I paid in cash I was so glad I kept that receipt. From that day I never pay any bill or doctor visit with cash.

Kate Collins said...

The dollar signs on my forehead come with a car attached. I always am suspicious when I or my daughter go in for an oil check and am told about all the other things that are wrong with the car. My daughter is very good at saying 'No, thanks,' and checking on those issues somewhere else, usually wisely so. Women are more vulnerable than men, unfortunately, when it comes to cars. When it comes to medical issues, we all have to be careful.
Tiffany, there are natural remedies for endometriosis. Check out books by Dr. John R. Lee, MD. "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About . . " series. They cover many reproductive issues. His books were very helpful when I had a hormone issue.

ev said...

Yes esp now that our daughter's insurance is about to end and she just found out she has arthritis (at 26) in her knee and has to have cortisone shots and pt. And she's in CA while we are here in NY. I can't wait to see how this plays out. Trying to find a policy is asinine. The co-pay and deductible you have to reach to get the policy to pay out is astronomical- I might just as well pay the bills and she can use them as a tax write off I guess.

I really do get tired of the medical office screwups that get blamed on the patient instead of who should be blamed.

Leann Sweeney said...

In our country, you pay for medical care BEFORE you have an outcome. We put a price tag that most people cannot afford on sickness. This is an "entitlement?" Why aren't we all entitled to only pay if we get the best outcome possible, the best tests, the best research, and the same care that someone with a bazillion dollars gets? Or maybe we aren't created equal after all. Okay. Stepping down from my soap box. My daughter is a performance artist and dancer in NYC. She has no health insurance either. Am I worried? Like you, I am worried SICK. Pun intended.

Salar37_Shushan said...

Unfortunately, I can relate only too well to what you are saying.

We ran out of money with all my husband's health problems. His episodes made a number of assignments impossible, so he had to take local work. We'd paid for test after test over the years but his problems were only diagnosed AFTER his good insurance had lapsed AND we had paid for a procedure with our remaining funds that not only failed but made him much MUCH worse. He finally got the care he needed in an open exploratory surgery at the BIG public hospital in our state. By this time his continued survival was recognized even by the doctors as an unqualified miracle. We filled out tons of paperwork to cover the bills, were made to walk up to half a mile for the 'free' check-ups at one point, with all kinds of medical apparatus hanging off of him and still got the hairy eyeball when we got there. In fact the walking and hours of waiting (they would give you a time to be there and refuse to see you if you were 'late' but they didn't feel any responsibility at all to keep to the hours they set. This finally made his condition bad enough one day that I formally protested. (However, they did fix this set-up after the complaint.)

Wow. Do I *ever* know what you mean. :(

I think it takes twice the courage to get proper help for you and yours when you don't have good insurance/financial back-up and a very serious condition. [Sometimes even that won't help.]

Doesn't make it any easier for you though. I am very sorry you went through this sort of trauma again. :((

*gentle hugs*
Susan M

Tiffany0227 said...

Thanks for the advice Kate, I will def. check into it.
I do have to say I feel very fortunate that my husband handles all the car issues. It is funny how women are strongly discriminated against when it comes to mechanical problems. Everytime I go to Autozone or call them they try to talk to me like I am stupid and I really don't like it. It sounds like you have a really wise daughter though.

Leann Sweeney said...

So sorry Susan. You went to hell and back. I hope we see a fix in our lifetime, but I'm not optimistic. I sure hope things are better now. I just wish this hadn't happened to you and your husband. This kind of thing leaves deep scars and distrust. Take care.

Fiona L. Woods said...

I grew up on a farm. I learned about engines/trucks/cars, etc. by the time I was 10 years old. Consequently, I've not had a problem with men treating me like I'm stupid when it comes to vehicles more than once. I politely (usually) point out the error in their judgment of me and tell them what needs to be done to my car and what does not need to be done.

My daughter took a class in auto repair at the local community college. She told me most of the students were women who were tired of being taken advantage of when they took their cars in for oil changes and wound up being charged for all kinds of other repairs.

No dollar signs here!


signlady217 said...

"I am Woman, hear me roar!" Good for us for knowing when to raise a stink about something and when to let it go or find out more info, etc., etc. :)

Salar37_Shushan said...

Thank you, Leann. We're hoping that those sessions are over, but he's still not feeling great so its hard to be confident. At least he ended up qualifying for Medicare so for now, at least, he has some kind of insurance again.

@Signlady, hehe. Yup!