Please remit

Yesterday, we received a bill from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. It has been over 4 months since Paul saw the doctors there, and this is the first billing paperwork that we’ve seen from them. There have been a couple of “Explanation of Benefits” forms from Group Health pertaining to Paul’s appointments there, but not enough to cover all of his appointments, and nothing from MD Anderson. While I have wondered about the charges, I have not been willing to initiate a conversation with them about their billing.

But send me a bill – especially a confusing and incomplete one – and I’ll certainly react. The bill showed a “balance forward” of several hundred dollars in both the “pending insurance” and “patient balance” columns. Hmmmm. For it to be a balance forward, shouldn’t there have been a previous bill on which the amount was a current item? And of course, since the amounts were shown as balances forward, there was no listing of the physicians’ names (or numbers, as that’s often all that shows on the bill), appointment dates, and charges.

So, today I called MD Anderson’s toll free Customer Service number, and spoke with Christina. (Christina? Maybe real names, rather than flower aliases, are the norm at MDA.) Apparently they’ve been having some problems with their accounting software, so that some people who should’ve been billed haven’t. This problem with the software was recently fixed, which is why we got a bill. I said that, before paying anything, I’d need a complete, detailed statement of Paul’s account. Christina said that she’d be happy to send that to me.

Then I asked about the $400 deposit that they had required us to pay before seeing Dr. Weber. (When we were there, we hadn’t yet paid any of Group Health’s out-of-network deductible for the year… so they collected the entire amount from us.) Oh, Christina said, that’s showing as a credit on your clinic account. (As at UW, the doctors’ fees and the hospital/clinic charges are billed separately.) The $400 didn’t show up on theclinic portion of the bill as a credit… but perhaps I expect too much. I told her that Paul had been there for a second opinion, that there wouldn’t be any clinic charges as he was treated elsewhere, and would she please apply that amount to the physicians account. She said that she would put in a request to transfer the credit.

I neglected to ask how long I should expect these things to take. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the statement from MD Anderson before the statement from Group Health that I requested almost 3 weeks ago.