“My Buddy in the Billing Department”
You know what never, ever runs like clockwork — even when a neurotypical father is amazingly on top of things? The medical billing department, particularly when insurance is involved. If you’ve ever silently screamed on one end of customer service call, this story will hit a nerve.
I was already pretty upset by the time I placed the call to our neurologist, navigated his automated system, and was waiting on hold with the billing department. Laurie had received a voicemail a few days earlier about an amount due, and now I am equal parts confused and annoyed — not with her, but with the hassle of playing this phone game. Finally, after several minutes of smooth jazz, a receptionist answers, “This is Delilah.” I make a mental note of her name, which is the same as one of the more notorious villains in the Bible.
“Hi, I got a voicemail about a bill.”
I give my info, and she pauses for a few moments to research our account. These are the moments that always feel like hours to me because I’m wondering if I’m about to get slapped with some four-figure bill. Or worse.
Finally, she informs me there’s an amount due, which wasn’t a staggering amount. What stunned me was that the bill was for an appointment fifteen months ago. “Woah, woah!” I say, “Why am I just now being contacted about this?”
“We’ve left several voicemails and sent letters.”
I pride myself on being a pretty organized guy, so this floors me. I open all mail, return all calls, I even clean out my email’s spam folder on a daily basis. Pretty much for this exact reason. So I don’t miss things like this. “I haven’t received any notifications about this,” I say. “We’ve had multiple appointments since then. I mean, I’ve paid multiple bills since then.”
Delilah more or less disregards my claims and continues, “Well this is the amount due. And because it’s so far in the past it will be turned over to collections if it’s not paid soon.”
Up to this point in the conversation, I’ve been able to maintain a professional demeanor. But hearing that word – COLLECTIONS – sets me off. I’m not about to have my info get sent to a collection agency, especially over a few hundred dollars. So my voice goes up an octave or two. “Wait, that’s not right! I, seriously, I haven’t received any notification about this bill. My address hasn’t changed. My phone number hasn’t changed. You need to file a claim with my insurance company.”
It sounds like Delilah has had all she was going to take because she responds, “Sir, we tried that over a year ago and it was denied. It’s too late to file another claim. You have to pay for the service you received…” Then there is a click. And silence.
“Hello?” I say. “Hello? Hello!”
I’m glad I took this call on a day I was working from home. And the kids were at school at the time. Because I’m not so proud of my response. Words were said. Things got thrown. Doors became slammed.
I was flooded with all the frustrations of the call and with the feeling I’d been accused of being disorganized, a cheat, a deadbeat. Then I thought about restarting the clock on finding another neurologist and the years it took us to get a referral, find one that would accept our insurance and wasn’t booked six months out, and finally get a diagnosis and discover the cocktail of medications that works for our kiddos.
Fast forward about a half hour, and Laurie calls to tell me she received a call from Delilah and then Delilah’s supervisor. Apparently, the call got disconnected inadvertently. They tried calling me back, but when I didn’t answer they called Laurie. They had mixed-up insurance companies when I changed jobs, but now they had the info they needed to file the right claim. They apologized and assured me there was still enough time to resolve everything.
Nevertheless, it takes me the rest of the day to come down off that adrenaline high. It helps when Laurie comes home from work that evening and hands me a big Oreo milkshake. “This might help take the edge off your mood,” she says, kissing my cheek. “You always take care of the doctor’s appointments, the bills, and all the insurance stuff. Thanks for being so good to us.”
She sets the mail on the counter and I see a letter from the neurologist. “That’s it!” I say. “I’m heading to the gym.”
As I head out the door, Laurie calls out, “Honey, it’s not a bill. It’s a customer service survey.”
I promptly turnaround, step back in the house, and hold out my hand. “I’ll take that.”