When the Billing Gets Tough ...

I’m not going nuts. Not this cookie.

Everyone knows the medical insurance industry can be frustrating.

So when I belatedly came to recognize the cabal of forces lined up against me -- a prestigious hospital, an insurance company and a collection agency -- I was cool as a cucumber.

The wickedness started innocently enough.


I’d gone to my doctor in March for persistent shoulder pain. He sent me downstairs for X-rays. Two weeks later another doctor gave me a cortisone shot that eliminated the pain. I now recognize it as a ploy to soften me up.

The initial foray, if memory serves, came in May. The hospital billed me for the $207.25 in laboratory expenses. I phoned, and a nice woman said the bill probably crossed in the mail with the insurance company’s payment. She told me to ignore the bill.

In hindsight, a very clever stratagem on her part.

Some weeks later, a second bill arrived. Unaware it represented Phase II of the plan to destroy me, I threw it away.

By late summer, the full-scale assault was underway. The hospital sent another notice, this time stating that if the bill weren’t paid, it would notify a collection agency.

With a cool head, I phoned the insurance company. A nice woman said all was well. I asked if she’d pass that on to the hospital, and she said she would.

Not long after, I got a letter from a collection agency saying the hospital had directed it to begin proceedings against me if my debt wasn’t paid.

For the first time during the summer-long campaign, I realized the array of forces against me. While a lesser man would crumble, I launched a full-scale counteroffensive.


I arranged a conference call between the insurance company and the hospital, during which the insurance company told the hospital that it would handle the bill.

I then asked the hospital representative if she would inform the collection agency that I was in the clear. She said she would.

Within another week or so, a second letter arrived from the collection agency. It said it was on the verge of taking action against me.

I admit it -- I sobbed uncontrollably for an hour straight before regrouping. The next day, I fired another double-barreled salvo, forcing the collection people and the hospital rep to speak to each other. In the face of this withering assault, the agency backed down.


Far from done, I forced both hospital and agency to send me letters verifying that they had talked and were calling off the dogs.

I was exhausted. It had taken me months of intermittent anger, frustration and bedtime anxiety to bring the Axis of Exasperation to its knees.

I thought it was over.

But these people are good. They are very good.


Earlier this week, the hospital wrote: “The above-mentioned account was billed to your insurance. However, we have not received payment. The hospital would appreciate any assistance you may be able to lend in resolving this matter.”

Simultaneously, the Axis opened a new front: In recent days, solicitors offering to “consolidate my debts” have left messages on my home phone.

A coincidence? I think not!

I again phoned both insurance company and hospital. As always, the agents were polite. “Someone dropped the ball,” the insurance company representative said. “They are going to pay the claim,” the hospital representative said.


They probably think they’ve got me. That I’m about to lose my mind.

Deluded? Paranoid? Don’t make me laugh. I’ve never been sharper.


Dana Parsons’ column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Readers may reach Parsons at (714) 966-7821, at The Times’ Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or