Tag Archives: parenting young adults

The Messy Art of Disputing Medical Billing

My firstborn (FB for identification purposes in the rest of this post) is 22 years old. I thought I would have taught them everything I could by now, life skills wise. It started with things like tooth brushing and pouring drinks. I turned over laundry duties nine years ago. A driver’s license has been in hand for five years. The kid has held a responsible, paying job for fifteen months, and even managed tax filing without my help this year.

But life is always throwing something new at you. I currently find myself in the midst of assisting Kid A with the messy art of disputing medical billing. Perhaps you’ve read some articles recently about surprise emergency room charges. We’re living it.

It all stems from a late-night sudden illness last June. The insurance benefits posted on-line made it look like a trip to the ER should cost a total $100 copay. I offered to split the cost of the bill. Going to the ER turned out to be the right medical decision, but a second trip was nearly induced a couple of months later for heart issues when the health insurance statement showed up, claiming the total patient responsibility was $401.92. Whoa Nelly!

FB tried calling to straighten it out, but quickly became overwhelmed by the bureaucrat-speak, and gave permission for me to handle the issue. I made sure they knew every at step what I was doing, because dealing with health insurance snafus is sure to be a recurring issue in every American life.

I wish I could say I resolved the problem, but it’s still ongoing. In fact, I have a formal complaint filed with our state’s insurance commission and have also contacted the attorney general’s office to see if they can offer advice.

I did teach my kid some specifics for handling communications, though. Document all phone calls, taking names and writing down what was said. When the recorded voice tells you this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes, keep that in mind. Don’t inadvertently go on record sounding like you agree with anything you really know is wrong. For a Midwesterner raised to be agreeable and pleasant at all times, this is hard. I keep wanting to say, “Okay. I see.” Instead I say, “No, that’s not right.”

Of course, the insurance company gave me the run-around, saying they would send the claim back for review, followed by radio silence until I initiated contact again. Then all of their stories changed when I talked to a second, different person. The real kicker is that, in the meantime, the hospital bill arrived and it was $501.92, even a hundred more than the surprise amount on the insurance statement.

I thought at least that extra hundred would be easy to straighten out. Simply show the hospital billing office the EOB we received. Nope. In November, I called and agreed to pay the $401.92 (FB kicking in the original $50 they agreed to), with the understanding we were still working on the insurance company to get things fixed and we would expect a $300 refund eventually. I worry about bad credit. I was told yes, to pay that amount and fax them a copy of the EOB I had. I did as told and assumed we were finished dealing with them until we could harass the insurance company into doing the right thing.

Nope. A couple of weeks ago, FB got a rude young adult awakening with a letter out of the blue from a collection agency, stating they owe an unpaid bill of $100 to the hospital. I got on the phone with the hospital again, with FB listening, and was able to read them my notes from all previous phone calls to them and insurance company. I said I would once again send them copies of the insurance statement we received, which clearly said “Total patient responsibility: $401.92.” I got an email address this time and scanned the letter to them.

The next day, FB and I were both off work, so we drove to the hospital billing office and presented the paperwork in person, proof it hadn’t been altered in any way. The woman who helped us was as confused as I. She said, “That’s sure what they told you, but when I look it up online, it tells me $501.92.” I talked her into calling the collection agency and putting a hold on their collection efforts until we got the bill straightened out.

After providing proof three different ways, we walked away expecting a phone call from the hospital stating their bill had been corrected. Guess what, though? Right – radio silence again. I finally called back a week later and ended up with a manager, who insisted the higher amount was correct because it’s what they see on the computer. The only way they could change their bill was to get a new, revised EOB from the insurance company.

But when I called them, the representative refused to issue one, saying, “I’m looking here and it says $501.92.” I also emailed them scans of the statement they sent me. Back on the phone with the billing manager, she said she talked to someone at insurance who told her basically that I was lying, that I had simply withheld pages of our insurance statement from her, and if I looked on the very last page, there it said we “might” owe $501.92. I apprised my kid of the latest developments and showed them how to dig in. I went back to the hospital in person again on my day off and presented in person the entire insurance statement I had received, which had the number $501.92 nowhere on it. In fact, the last page was only a list of how to get information if you speak a language other than English.

After hours worth of phone calls, with ever shifting stories from our health insurance company, my temporary, wimpy resolution of the issue was to drive a third time to the hospital billing office, agreeing to pay the $100 only to get the account out of collections and save my child’s credit rating here at the beginning of their adult life. But I also filed a formal complaint in writing to the insurance company and to the insurance commission, and insisted on a note being put on the account stating we didn’t agree the amount was owed.

My biggest concern was that, if they’d already moved the goalposts twice, they could move them again. I was afraid we’d hand them another $100 and then in three months, they might decide the total owed was actually $600, or $800 and ding us again. So I paid the hundred only under the condition that they cancel the collection agency altogether while I was sitting there to witness it and they print me a statement showing a zero balance on the account.

Now, we are waiting to hear back from the insurance commission or attorney general’s office. The thing is, if they had only been a large amount greedy, I would have let it go at 400. But when they went from large greedy to huge greedy and threw in some gaslighting on top of it, they transformed the whole issue into the hill on which I was willing to die. Now I’m working to get a full refund.

I know it’s most likely we’ll get nothing, but I hope at least I’m showing my kid that you keep standing up for yourself. If a bureaucrat is going to swindle you, you should at least make them work for it.

27867891_10210713229962680_1283831038001802512_n

Advertisements

My Baby Off to the Jury

Sniff. Yesterday was my baby’s first day of jury duty and I didn’t even manage to get pictures.

I guess I have to admit my child really is grown up when they get summoned to sit on a trial. And I don’t get to go along to offer moral support or take pictures of how cute they look sitting with the group in the courtroom.

This was federal court, too, so not even in our city. They had to drive to the state capital, thirty-five miles away, where the U.S. District Court is located. During rush hour. On the morning when a lot of out-of-town visitors were leaving after eclipse viewing.

As it turns out, after half a day of vetting, my kid was not selected and got to come home. I have received jury summonses approximately every three years going back to the dawn of time, yet never actually had to report to a courthouse. I’ve only had to make the phone calls to find out whether to go. So I was full of questions.

Thing 1 (nickname for my firstborn) reported that the case was “Some old super rich guys suing each other because no amount of money is enough for them.” It was a property dispute of some sort. Apparently many high-paid attorneys were involved on both sides. Thing 1 was dismissed when the judge asked if anyone in the jury pool felt uncomfortable with the amount of money being sought – $80 million dollars.

So, there we go. Another milestone achieved. I need to remember where I put the baby book, so I can write it down.

 

My YA Offspring Handling Things

Even though my children both live with me at the moment, and even though I sometimes find myself wishing they both were more independent in some ways, they will occasionally surprise me with what they handle on their own.

This is Captain Marvelous (Marv for short), in his heyday:

644457_10204981211983763_2184179776784906129_n

R.I.P. Captain Marvelous

My firstborn, C, has had a succession of little pets over the years — rats, gerbils, hamsters and mice who are treated to the best life and care a rodent could ever hope for. (Rats make excellent pets. They’re pretty clean and usually very affectionate and well-behaved.) Unfortunately, even the best cared-for rodent has as shortish life span. Marv was not quite three years old, elderly for a rat, and we knew his time was drawing to a close. He’d been having breathing difficulties for several days.

This morning, C told me Marv passed during the night. I expressed my condolences and started to talk about what to do with his body. That’s when I discovered everything was already taken care of. My two kids had taken him out and buried him in the yard at first light, while my husband and I slept. They put a large rock over the grave to keep other neighborhood animals from digging there.

This feels like a big milestone. They didn’t even wake us up. Or wait for us. They simply took care of it. Is burying your own deceased pet without parental help a marker denoting childhood’s end? Maybe? It’s just not one I had considered.

A Whiff of Schadenfreude in the Air

Is it wrong of me to take a little joy in hearing my firstborn vent frustrations with the difficulties of supervising a teenaged employee at work? There was no breach of manager/employee confidentiality, in case you’re wondering. Just a generalized statement about the struggle of getting a young person under your authority to see and accomplish needed tasks without being prompted every step of the way.

I can sympathize. I really can. (Laughing up my sleeve.)

Memorial Day As Mom of Draft-Age Kids

Just a short post here. My children are 22 and 19 years old, respectively. Prime age to be drafted if we ended up in a war with a draft.

It’s fully hitting me for the first time that most of the soldiers we’re honoring and remembering on Memorial Day were just kids, basically. The majority of the troops who have been killed in battle throughout all the years of our country – around the ages my kids are now. Pretty sobering.

This song seems fitting for today. Particularly these lines:

And I just turned twenty-two
I was wonderin’ what to do
And the closer they got,
The more those feelings grew

 

A Cat and Her Boy

lunaface

This critter staring at you from the screen is named Luna. Feel free to extend her birthday greetings, as she is fifteen years old this month. She’s been a member of our household from the age of eight weeks, coming to us about the time my youngest kid was turning four. The two of them bonded immediately. She’s supposed to be my cat, but I’m the only one who signed that contract; she never agreed to the terms and conditions. As far as Luna is concerned, she has one human — the boy she helped raise.

Both of my children are good with animals, and even at such a young age, my son showed a remarkable gentleness with our tiny kitten. The two of them spent many hours playing and snuggling. It wasn’t uncommon for my son to fall asleep with the cat wrapped in his arms.

For a few months last year, Luna’s boy moved away, and I could tell she was looking for him, going to his room repeatedly. Since he returned home in late December, she’s been dogging his footsteps, so to speak. Sometimes I wonder about cat brains and what they remember. Does she know the big, gangly human she loves now is the same person as the little guy who used to drive his Hot Wheels cars around her? I think she must. But I’m sure neither of them remembers a time before the other.

The boy is considering moving away again in the fall. I hope it doesn’t break either of their hearts too much.

IMG_2496

She still likes to sleep in his bed. 

 

Major League Adulting

My 18-year-old son has done some major league adulting the past couple of weeks, tackling challenges that can leave even the most seasoned grown-up looking around in panic for a more adulty adult.

First, he cast his first ever vote by absentee ballot. I always vote, and have always kept my life boring enough that I was sure to be in town on election day, able to go to the polling place. Absentee voting was new to me, but between the two of us we figure out how to get him a ballot. I only helped him with the easy first step.

After he received the ballot, he earned his stars on the chart for grown-up responsibility by researching every candidate and issue before marking his selections. I didn’t realize he would have to get it notarized before returning it. But he figured out how to do this all on his own. This is the kind of thing that can shut down people much older than he is. It makes my heart sing to know that voting is important enough to my offspring that he made the effort to go find a notary by himself. I wonder how many people stop at that point in the process.

His second major bit of adulting involved an injury. He wrecked his bicycle and hurt his wrist. He messaged me a few minutes after the incident, and I urged him to go to the Student Health Center immediately. Once again, I helped him as I could through the first steps, even describing to him what I saw on Google street view to help him find the building. Once he was in the doors, though, he was on his own for the first time handling a medical emergency. I prepared myself to jump in my car and drive 95 miles right away if they wanted to send him on to the hospital. However, they sent him away with an ace bandage and the opinion that it was unlikely he had a fracture.Stymied in my frantic desire to save the day in a motherly way, I hopped on-line and ordered a box of instant cold packs delivered to his dorm overnight.

Version 2

He sent me a photo.

A few days later, my kid had a follow-up with the health center and they decided he should go get X-rays. They put an actual brace on in the meantime. This was last Friday. He messaged me saying he needed to get it done over the weekend. Again, I pulled on my SuperMom cape only to be told to pack it away. I made plans A, B, C and D for getting together with him and going for the scans at a place covered under our insurance. Then I talked to him on the phone and he was all like “I can do it at the hospital near campus. They have a deal with the school. It’s a flat $35 fee.” Oh.

Did he at least want me to drive down and go over there with him, for moral and logistical support? He didn’t see any reason for it. Oh. He did it. Got himself to the hospital, handled the paperwork and got X-rays done, all on his own. In case you’re curious about what the scan showed, I am, too. He goes back to Student Health tomorrow to find out the results.

I wish I were able to help him more, but can’t say I’m displeased at his level of competence. Whatever happens with grades and school, he’s obviously developing the skills to cope with adult life. But I’m still ready to jump in the car if he needs me.