3/6/08

Patient Abuse!

The situation with medical care and the costs in the USA, is too large a problem for me to even have a desire to discuss here - just know it stinks and if you're a Brit' be glad for the NHS, however bad it gets!

But I thought I would share a recent shocking experience with a well known national blood testing Laboratory, I can't name them obviously!

Since last August I have had the same five blood tests run by them every month and the invoice (which I pay direct having no insurance cover) has always been $177. I went as usual in February, saw the same nurse (the only employee at this Lab') and had the blood drawn.

Two weeks later the invoice arrived for $391, which represented a 220% price increase in a month!! First of all it nearly gave me a coronary and then I thought this has to be a genuine error on their part. One of these tests had gone up by 347% in one month!

So I called their billing department and asked them. It was no mistake, they had a price increase on January 27 and therefore my invoice stood. I pointed out the nurse never advised me of the price increase, there were no signs visible about it and therefore I was not paying it. After conferring with a manager she said I should have been told, I said well I was not, she said then you need to take this up with that Lab' - effectively passing the buck nicely.

So I called the nurse, who I have got know well and explained the problem. She also did not know about any price increase and was in total shock at how much my invoice had increased! She called the billing department herself and was basically told you should know this, to which she replied well you haven't told me. She explained to them she does not collect money ever at the site and therefore has no idea on pricing. They said what you don't have a price list, you don't have signs about the increase up? She confirmed no and a price increase like this would put the already quiet Lab' out of business, with a cheaper hospital across the street!

So I then emailed in two complaints and threatened them with letters to the Better Business Bureau and our Congressman. Big surprise they had not replied after two weeks, despite stating you should hear back within 24 hours!

After 2 weeks, the nice nurse called me to see if I had it resolved and offered a solution. She had spoken to her Area Manager and he advised me to ask my Dr to get the tests billed direct to him as they would be less. So I called my Dr and they happily agreed to try this for me and I ignored the invoice.

Finally this week I got a response from my complaints saying the bill will not be reduced, but by now I had settled a much reduced bill at my Dr's office from them.

So now the shocking part.......

January invoice = $177
February invoice = $391

Same invoice but billed direct to my Dr = $83

This bill has been the talk of my Dr's office amongst his staff, despite dealing with medical costs all day, even they can't believe a Lab' can justify charging an uninsured patient $308 more!!

So lucky for me I got it resolved but it made me so mad I have reported the whole saga to the Better Business Bureau anyway. On the basis that patients should be advised of such a major price increase before the blood is drawn - we shall see!

7 comments:

Katrina Chambers said...

Hi again Sarah! So sorry to hear about this. I have had a similar experience once with an anesthetist bill. I refused to pay (because of a ridiculous price) and after a long process I basically told them I would pay them $1 a week (which a debt company said is legal and as long as I am paying something it would be fine) OR I offered to go to jail (haha not likely - just expressed to them how passionate I was about this!!). But it was enough of a threat and somehow the bill just disappeared. Just ludicrous!!

Anyway, I have fixed up your link on my blog (I hope).

BritGal' Sarah said...

Hi Katrina...I LOVE that you did this and it was legal LOL! Even though I got off this, no way I am letting it go, they made me too mad as well!

So I guess things aren't much better with the medical system 'down under' either! Governments need to step in and impose some sort of control on costs, it's just getting crazy

Karen H. said...

Good Morning Sarah,
Just thougth I would drop by and check in with you. Wow, I can't beleive the Lab would do this to you and not tell you or anyone else of the price increase. I tell ya, the Government has things so messed up these days. It's so hard for anyone to survive these days. I'm glad you were able to get it resolved tho. I would have done the same thing you did as well. Did yall get any Snow on Tuesday or yesterday? We got just a tad bit on Tuesday and I have a picture of what we got on my post today. They are saying we are to get 4 to 8 inches of Snow today and tonight. As of right now, we have NOTHING. I am so disappointed that I could just cry. I will be moving this weekend and won't be able to post or visit until after Monday when they hook our Cable & Internet up at the other house. I will get back to posting and visiting just as soon as I can tho. Take care my friend and have a great day/weekend. May God Bless You and Yours.

Love & Hugs,
Karen H.

Tammy said...

Good for you Sarah...there is no sense in them getting away with that...it is called price gouging in my opinion and that is supposed to be against the law!!!

Vickie said...

Thank you for standing up for yourself!
I wonder how many folk who don't stand up for themselves have been affected.

Carrie said...

shaking my head, but not at all surprised dear Brit pal.

In the ten years I've lived Stateside I've had to fight to get treatment for my eldest son who was born with a cleft lip and palate and I do have medical insurance. When my son needed a second bone graft to fix his hard palate in his mouth because sadly the first one failed, medical insurance had to be contacted for pre-approval, where it was promptly stamped "denied" and returned. When I questioned this, they told me that they didn't cover cosmetic surgery. When I explained that it was in fact re-constructive surgery, they still denied it 'cause of course, one can go through life with a gaping hole in the roof of their mouth!! Cosmetic? What a joke. I fought and won but it literally took months to get the surgery covered, not to mention put our son through the ordeal of delaying his treatment.

The NHS isn't perfect, but by golly it's there as safety net. In my dealings with other parents at Children's Hospital (Seattle and Oakland, CA), I realise we are one of the 'lucky' ones. To get into such financial straits with one's medical bills that you even lose your house is sadly a fact of life for some families.

Oh and the billing thing? Classic. On a different surgery for my son, I decided to just go ahead and pay the out of pocket expenses, I got my bill itemised and was invoiced, so imagine my delight when insurance finally decided to cough up and some months down the line I saw the ACTUAL $ amount that the hospital submitted, at least 300% (no, that is not a typo!) LESS than what they were going to charge me!! The whole system is flawed! The assumption that the "insured" somehow help to subsidize the "uninsured" is in fact, the other way around!!!

There.. do you think you might just have found my Achilles Heel with this post? LOL!

Good luck on the BBB thing!

Peta said...

That is a ridiculous increase. Good on you for challenging them!