Sunday, December 04, 2005

Rage Against the Machine

The last few days have been unbearably busy: site visits to Robert's classroom, running things to the lawyer, trying to get up the stomach to look at the medical bills.

That's my project this afternoon: medical billing. My habit is to let them stack up for a while, unopened, until I am in the frame of mind to actually cope with them (which is, increasingly, never). If I were to open one, then I would note that something wasn't quite right, then I would have to start looking for all the documentation regarding that visit (which may or may not be filed), checking it against policy info, and then trying to figure out how to address it, who to contact, etc. That always sends me into a tail spin.

For those of you who like to blame insurance companies for all kinds of billing headaches, let me clue you in. After dealing with a seriously ill child for over 7 years now, I know for a fact that it is hospitals and doctors offices that make the vast, clear majority of billing errors. I would estimate the split at 80% hospital/doctor's office errors, and 20% insurance company errors.

We might throw a bone of sympathy to hospitals and doctor's offices, who must try to understand the coding for multiple plans, patients who frequently change insurance, etc. But I might also note that hospitals and doctor's offices take longer to correct their own mistakes, on the average, than the insurance companies do. (An example: Children's Hospital billed me for at least 7 months for a claim that the insurance company paid after the first 30 days--let's see if I get a bill next month!! I've been pointing this out to them for quite some time.) And they are less willing to correct their own errors, because they don't have any motivation to do so. You owe them money, or so it seems. Why should they bother to recognize that they've made a mistake? The patient is always the monkey in the middle in these situations. It's exhausting, particularly when you're sick or a child is ill and your available time resources must be spent elsewhere.

So, anyway, as far as my letting them stack up and sit around for a while, it seems more economical to deal with five trillion mistakes at one fell swoop, rather than do it one at a time, which is an excellent mimesis of punitive eternity.

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