Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Debt Collector Calleth

* Stringham high: More (slight) improvement in Steph's vision this week!
* Stringham low: See today's entry below :(
* Stringham super-high: Mike has a job!!!!!!

Got a letter from a collection agency today for one of the doctors who’s been billing me since October—for reading the X-rays and CT scan they took when I first started having my headache and a lot of pain. I’ve called Managed Health Services (the company who was managing my insurance through Medicaid) every time I’ve received a bill, and they’ve sent letters to this guy two or three times, and they’ve tried to call his office to talk to him because he shouldn’t still be billing me. But when they’ve tried to call him, they’ve not been able to get through. So today, I called them again and told them about the collection agency, and I was told it would get turned over to Pam, the lady who contacts whese companies and reminds them that they cn’t keep billing me or they will lose their ability to treat Medicaid patients.

And then I called the collection agency and told them (as much as they would let me) what was going on, so they took my Medicaid number and said they’d try to get reimbursed for this from Medicaid but that this might hurt my credit anyway because it’s gone to collections. I said I understood but it is what it is because I can’t do much about it.

Meanwhile, I feel like shit because when I call these billing places, they make me feel dirty because I’ve got Medicaid or I’m not paying, or whatever. And they try to make you feel bad and tell me that I’m still liable for it, even if Medicaid doesn’t cover it. The whole time I’m told this, I keep thinking this is ridiculous. This is a fight between Medicaid and the provider, and the provider (any of them) keeps telling me that I’m responsible for paying whatever Medicaid doesn’t pay. Sure, if you have medical insurance, you’re liable for whatever they don’t cover, but Medicaid works a little differently. I mean, really, if I had the money, I wouldn’t have to have had Medicaid, would I? So I felt like crap, because I’m between a rock and a hard place, in between two fighting dogs, and I’m the one who’s going to get hurt from it, my credit score, anyway. I told Mike about everything, and I just started bawling because these phone calls always make me feel crappy and worthless and, most of all, frustrated, because I feel powerless. I’m told by one side not to do anything and by the other side that I’m completely responsible. And all I want to do is understand what the hell is going on. And I want to be left alone while they duke it out. Why do I have to keep getting bit by the dog? ugh.

Anyway, because I was crying, Mike was trying to tell me what I needed to do, to call MHS and make sure the problem goes to someone who will do something more than just “pass it to Pam.” I told him to feel free. So he started calling. He tried to take care of it, but they had to talk to me, so I had to try to stem my tears of frustration and talk to these people again. This lady was incredibly understanding and patient (and knowledgeable—jackpot!)—but maybe that was because Mike had already told her I was in tears and that’s why he was calling. It was the lunch hour (of course), so she tried to find Pam, or her own boss, but couldn’t. But she has told me that she’s trying to find a different number for this doctor who keeps billing me (and apparently ignoring the warning letters from MHS) but can’t seem to be reached. And she’s supposed to call me before the day’s out to let me know what’s going on. She said this situation needs to be escalated, the letters and calls just aren’t enough anymore, because this has been going on for too long (yeah, that’s why I’ve been so damn frustrated…I’ve been getting bills from him since December). So here’s hoping that she can get her coworkers to cooperate and really get something to happen. Because if this one isn’t resolved, I’ve got two MUCH larger bills coming down the pike that will go much the same way…

The more I deal with crap like this, the more I’m convinced that health care providers and collection agencies like this (and other insurance companies) eventually get their money by strong-arming, lying, and just wearing people down. Most people will eventually pay because they don’t have the time to deal with this and will cave in and pay out of fear or frustration, even if it means they rack up credit card debt or something. (Seriously?!) I may not know much, but I know better than that. I figure I’ve got three things going for me: (1) I’ve got the time (well, I can make it) to deal with this, (2) I’m incredibly organized and can provide documentation for every phone call and bill and letter, and (3) I hate being strong-armed—the more they try it, the more pissed off I get, and the less likely to do what they want me to do, especially quickly—if I get flustered or rushed, I retreat to gather my thoughts—screw that rushed decision crap.

In the meantime, I have to write a letter to the collection agency to show that I contest that I owe this money, and I’m going to give dates for everything, phone calls, and copies of letters. And copies are going to the provider and MHS, too. Seriously, IF this is going to hurt my credit, at least I can hold my head up high and have documentation.

All this instead of just having a brand-new beautiful baby in my arms this month…Mike and I sure would have preferred the baby. :)

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