Can't we poor patients get straight information instead of fiction?
Can't we switch to a healthcare system instead of a paper-shuffling, profit-driven, CEO-bonus-building system?
On Sept. 26, one of my insurance company statements said $588 had been billed for laboratory services, of which BlueCross paid $57.90. This was one of those deals where the hospital bills one thing knowing it will gladly accept a lesser amount. It's like going to a restaurant where the menu lists the cost of pasta primavera at $236, but they'll take $14 and throw in a bread stick.
I've got a friend in healthcare administration who said to me:
"You realize all these numbers are meaningless, right?"
Yes, but I'm afraid I'll misinterpret the meaningless numbers and have my credit ruined. I got a bill in October with charges from 11 doctors, eight of whom I've never heard of. It's possible, I suppose, that they all rushed to my side during the 30-second span in which I was dead.
When I couldn't pay in full, Keck Medical Center of USC was happy to work out a monthly payment plan. But shortly after that, I got a bill for a larger amount than I had agreed to. When I called to ask what was up, I was told that I must be wrong, there was no such monthly payment plan on record.
Is their ulterior motive to drive me insane, so I begin running up a tab for mental health services, too?
After a good deal of wrangling on the phone, the billing clerk came up with an explanation. I had worked out a monthly payment plan with Keck Medical Center of USC, but not with Keck Hospital of USC.
Who knew there was a difference? Is one a front for the other? Is the mob involved?
I can honestly tell you that I have no idea whether I've paid what I owe, or if that's even been determined. Months ago, the insurance company told me I'd end up paying about $3,000 per knee out of my own pocket.
Then why didn't they just send me a bill for $6,000, and save a forest?
It's possible that I don't really have surgery scheduled for Monday morning and this is all a ruse. I show up at the prescribed time and they have me arrested for nonpayment.
But if they go through with the operation, here's hoping Andrew Fabella is on duty.
Meanwhile, I'll be back to the column in a couple of weeks.
I'm almost sure of it.