Continuing adventures in health care

I don’t answer the house phone. If you know me well enough to need me, if you have my cell phone number.

Today, the house phone rang and listed the caller ID from an auto supply company in Auburn, Indiana. As it happens, my car is in the shop right now, so I thought, “Well, maybe it’s just a caller ID issue and the Nissan dealership is calling to tell me that they had went ahead with a merciful euthanasia on my beloved Emilio.”

Not so much.

The man on the other end of the line had just been to his post office box and picked up the mail for his auto supply store. In his stack of mail was the application for a new health insurance policy I’m getting. Said application contained the most personal of information a person could give–social security number, health information, birth dates, etc–for my entire family. The envelope also contained a voided check with all of our banking information on it.

“I’d be giving somebody hell,” the auto supplier said.

The man who sold us the insurance–a responsible, Dave Ramsey-endorsed agent who checked out across the board–took the application from us a couple of weeks ago. I got him on his cell phone and asked, in so many words, “What the hell, man?”

As of right now, he’s checking into it. He tells me his office faxed all the information days ago (which I believe, because I’ve already had a phone call from the underwriter). In any case, I got exceptionally lucky that the hard copy (which I presume his office mailed) found its way to an honest man rather than somebody who could’ve stolen my identity with it without blinking an eye.

That was this morning. The other news is almost as hilarious.

A couple of days after posting St. Francis Hospital: The real cost of having a baby, I got some mail. If you read the piece (and, based on the traffic I received to it, I’m pretty sure everybody did), it was a story of dealing with some seriously questionable billing practices at St. Francis Hospital in Greenville, SC. The end of the story told of being charged more than $1,500 for a nurse that the hospital contracted with outside of our agreement. In the end, we buckled to the hospital and paid the bill. You know how I know they know we paid the bill?

Because they endorsed and cashed this check.

Indeed, that check was sent in and cashed before the beginning of the year. On January 17, St. Francis printed and mailed this.

That bill was for the exact same service that we disputed but paid in December, but this time they were offering a pre-pay discount…for a bill we already paid…for a bill that we never should have received in the first place.

And so, the battle begins again.

* * *

It’s now been about two weeks since I published the St. Francis piece. Thousands of people have read it. I have received dozens upon dozens of comments and e-mails from all over the U.S. and the rest of the world. Thanks to all of you for sharing your story.

I also sent copies of the story to a lot of people in government. I don’t know what, if anything, I expected, but I hoped for at least a courtesy response. So far, out of all my state and federal representatives, only two have responded (thanks to Senator Mike Fair for the personal e-mail). St. Francis Hospital’s VP of marketing promised she would send it on to the appropriate people. I’ve yet to hear from anyone else at St. Francis.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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6 Responses

  1. OhCaptain says:

    That hospital is a lawsuit in the making. I would have thought by now they might have considered flagging your account for hand processing.

  2. Korte says:

    Sounds like St. Francis now owes you money. Try sending THEM a bill for your overpayment difference.

  3. AgSweep says:

    I wish I was licensed in South Carolina. As much as I loathe to use it sometimes the Esq. behind my name comes in handy, wish I could use it to your benefit. You might try you State’s Attorney General’s office, they might have an ombudsman for healthcare issues, maybe even specifically healthcare billing.

  4. BadBlood says:

    Well, at least you know one lawyer NOT to contact 🙂

  5. The Wife says:

    In a way, its almost comical in its pathetical, bureaucratic ridiculousness. If only it wasn’t happening to people I really care about. Karma baby . . . hold out hope.

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