by adgrooms on May 2, 2019

I am fortunate to work for a company that provides healthcare insurance, and thus my annual checkup doesn’t cost me anything. But in a recent trip to my physician for an annual check up, I had a little snafu with billing.

Everything went as normal, and after getting checked out by my physician, I went down the hall to get blood drawn to get sent to the lab. The tech filled up a couple of tubes of full of blood and told me I would be able to see my results in my online patient portal on their website.

Sure enough, I received an email notification that my tests were ready the next week. “Dang... elevated cholesterol.” For the first time in my life, I felt a little less invinceable in my dietary choices. As much of a disappointment this little health indicator was, I was glad the test was done and I could alter my diet a little to get those little artery cloggers out of here.

Then I got a bill in the mail from the lab. I was sure that the doctor’s office said I would owe nothing for the visit. I was convinced this would be quick and easy to resolve and set out to get the job done right away. I first tried calling the lab because they sent me the bill. Of course I was taken on a long frustrating ride through an automated phone system. I ended up finding no person to talk to, and left a voicemail. Judging by my experience, I figured they are probably the wrong people to contact even though the bill was from them. I didn’t expect that they would call beck. They just want their money.

Next up, I decided to get with the times and use the messaging in my patient portal to try to get an explanation from my physician instead of sitting on the phone through another automated trip to nowhere. I received a message back the next day. Everything was taken care of, the insurance company had been billed. Disregard it.

A month later a second notice came. A little concerned, I went back to the portal and asked if this is something I need to pay. This time I didn’t get a response for several days, but eventually I was told not to pay it, the billing department would deal directly with the lab to resolve it. Disregard it.

FINAL NOTICE was in bold red print on an envelope I received the next month. The lab wants their payment and they are about to send me to collections. Not my preferred way of moving forward. I sent a message in the portal explaining the current state of things with my bill.

In the end, the billing department got a hold of their rep that talks to the lab and somehow got a hold the right person there that could send the bill to the physicians office to deal with. I was finally off the hook after three months of late notices and have acquired high blood pressure in the process.

Who is at fault here? The physician? The lab? Insurance? EHR? It’s really hard to tell looking through the complex web of medical billing. I feel lucky though, for now.

There are far less fortunate people out there being financially ruined by an uncoordinated, incompetent medical reimbursement system. We must do better and we will begin to explore this over the next few posts.