Would you like to make a payment?

No, actually, I would not, but you, bill collector, seem to want me to since you just sent me this really polite letter.

“Dear Alice,

Our records indicate a past due balance of One Bazillion Dollars, give or take a million. To date, we have not received payment, or heard from you regarding this balance.

(Interesting since I had not heard from them about this balance either, but they seemed to think I had, cause this came next.)

We understand this may be a simple oversight, or you may be experiencing financial difficulties.

(No, because this is the first time I’ve seen this bill for my neck surgery last September, and yes I have financial difficulties especially after this bill, but I highly doubt this is going to let me get out of paying out what is left of my Eleventy Bazillion Dollar surgery, after insurance. Good thing they only fixed one neck disc thingy.)

Please contact us within 15 days of receiving this letter. OR ELSE.

Sincerely,

The Spine Guys”

This letter actually came after this lady from the Spine Guys called me up during Jeopardy, of all things, to inform me of the bazillion dollars I owed them and that I needed to pay it right then or else they would come and reverse the surgery. Or something like that. She wasn’t very nice since she seemed to think I had been ignoring their letters, which I had not since I’m pretty sure I would have remembered that amount. I mean, yeah, I had ignored some other medical bills (they all come separately from each person in the operating room for your convenience), but not a bill to THEM, so jeez. I asked if this was after insurance and she said “Yes, MA’M” which I just love being called, and said I could always pay it the very next day, at my latest appointment where they would x-ray my neck AGAIN to make sure foreign objects were still holding it together properly. I said “Um, cancel that appointment.” Also I asked for a bill I could actually see. So they sent one, and also that letter, in two separate envelopes, a few days ago. I got another one today, just in case.

I like how the doc holds down extra money with his medical equipment while making out your bill personally.

I like how the doctor holds his money under his medical equipment while personally making out my bill.

Now one thing I can say about these jerks, I mean miracle spine fixers, was that they at least came to a payment arrangement without much difficulty when I called them back later. Well, so far it seems okay. I had another payment plan where my bank acted kinda like me when I am not in the mood to pay my medical bill, as they stopped paying the hospital without telling me. I then got a call from the hospital and they asked if I had realized that the money had stopped being drafted from my account. I had not. I notice when money is taken, but not when it stays in the bank. I’m pretty happy when it stays in the bank. So then she offered to let me pay less money since I didn’t pay it on time.

In other words, if you are irresponsible, you get to pay less money. Makes sense.

Another fun thing about medical bills is that even though they really want you to pay them, for some reason they make this payment as difficult as humanly possible. This is partly achieved by not having humans answer the phone when you call with those pesky questions like “Is this bill part of the 100 dollars I was billed earlier, or for something else?” or “What person /place/ thing is this bill for exactly?” or “Who are you, cause I don’t remember ordering a horoscope reading during my surgery?” They make you type numbers into the phone, or worse, they have you speak into the phone to a robot for whom English is a second language. You get nowhere super fast, and soon enough you are right back where you started at the main menu. I mean it would be easier if they just sent you ONE itemized bill with everything you owe, but no, it has to be done in random stages and it’s even better if you’ve been seen for more than one thing recently, as I had with a surgery and depression treatments with the new drug Spravato (ketamine shot up the nose). I need a Spravato treatment after every attempt to PAY for a Spravato treatment.

At least these guys did bill me later, rather than asking for the money up front before I was even allowed to walk into the office, like they did for the MRI I had of my neck. It was the height of Covid season, or people caring anything about it at least, so someone literally came out to our car to bill us 300 dollars, took our card back with them to run it, then came back out again to return the card before telling us to keep waiting in our car until they deigned to let us and our cooties into their office. They didn’t seem to care that I was certain I’d met my deductible, cause I was not getting in there without paying. It’s like some people wait too long to pay their bills or something. Anyway, all that was for the chance to lay in a box for thirty-full minutes while they did construction on the outside of the box. That’s what it sounded like anyway. You’d think by now they could have improved this, but the not-as-excruciating machine costs more, so give me the construction box.

Would you like some claustrophobia?

Several other doctors also demanded payment up front, so eventually my insurance company sent me a refund. Then my insurance company later said “Oh we sent you too much, pay us back pronto.” Like that’s YOUR mistake, not mine, so why should I fix it? They kept mailing me about it, though, so today I tried to pay the forty-five dollars I owed back to them. It did not go well, as the nice foreign robot kept asking me to punch in numbers, then telling me my numbers were wrong, then asking me to do it again with feeling, before I got sent to a live person who informed me they didn’t take payments there. Like what was I thinking, just because the letter told me to call that number? She did give me a website – that was not on the letter – where I was able to pay quickly. I checked my bank online to make sure it went through, and was informed that it was down for maintenance. They were sorry for the inconvenience.

So am I. Maybe I’ll just wait again until they lower my bill. Bad Alice, bad.

~ Alice

7 responses

  1. Payment robots are the worst kind of robots 😦

    1. They really are! I much prefer R2-D2.

  2. Thanks for reminding me I need to call the outpatient clinic and see what happened to my request for a document supporting medical necessity so I can appeal the decision that teenager’s intensive outpatient treatment isn’t covered.

    1. Oh, insurance talks are even more fun! The pain, the painnnn . . .

  3. Preach, Alice. I have so been there and so many places adjacent. And the individual billing for every individual in the room and every lab test run as though they were extras and not necessary for the procedure has gotten shamefully out of hand. Just make sure you always pay your anesthesiologist. You may have to see them unexpectedly, and you do not want the person putting you to sleep pissed off. 😉

    (This also fits nicely with my philosophy of always tip your hairstylist and tattooist well. They remember that, and it serves you well going forward.)

    1. Very true! When I was delivering my youngest, the only really nice one there was my anesthesiologist! I wish I could have one put me to sleep every night!

      I’ll try to remember to tip him next time. I was kinda sleepy.

  4. Hi Alice! I’m back now and I missed you. 🙂

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