Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tales of the Marketplace, Vol. 3

Has anybody else noticed something like this?

I've had a series of increasingly strange "coincidences" lately with co-payments on my health insurance. (Yes, I know I'm lucky just to have health insurance.)

The coincidence: I pay the co-payment – by credit card, if I can, and insisting on a receipt, the better to create a paper trail. Then I get billed, anyway.

In years of dealing with co-pays, I'd only had one such experience before. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was convinced that I hadn't paid a $5 doctor's visit co-pay – my, that was a long time ago – and tried to collect. Fortunately, though I'd paid cash, I had a receipt.

These latest experiences, mostly with an institution I won't identify here, could simply be a result of sloppy record-keeping. But I wonder whether there could be a systemic failure, or worse. I wouldn't be the first to observe that medical billing is so confusing to most people that a percentage of those who are misbilled undoubtedly pay such dual billings without challenging them.

If it's an occasional error, it's frustrating but understandable – better in the billing department than in the OR, right? But that brings me back to my initial question: Has anybody else noticed evidence of a pattern?


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