Stranger Things Have Happened

Getting ready to close up shop, I noticed I had a late email. It was from DD. The subject was “Medical bill”. Huh? Why would she be telling me about her medical bill unless it was humongous? Perhaps knowing I’d worked on the financial side of healthcare (sickcare) for more than 24 years, she needed my expertise. Here’s the message (edited for privacy):

I don’t know why but I got a bill in the mail today from [the hospital] for the x-ray you had in June. It gives you as the patient, but me as the responsible party (and it gives [my maiden name] as my last name, too, which is odd). Do you know what might have happened? If you need, I can pay it, but I wasn’t expecting it.

No wonder she wasn’t expecting it! I may not be rich, but I’m fully capable of paying my own bills—for a time, at least. I emailed back:

I’d wondered why they hadn’t billed me for it. Is it $50? [DS1] is in as my emergency contact. You aren’t anywhere on my financial info.

Not getting a reply, I called her. The only thing I could figure out is that her information was picked up from the Durable Power of Attorney I’d taken with me. However, that, in no way, obligated her to be my responsible party. It “only” gives her the power to “pull the plug”. I was steamed. Talk about a HIPAA violation! The bill had everything but my date of birth and Social Security number.

After we hung up, I got out my legal papers. I emailed her a second time.

I looked and the DPOA has your [previous] address. I don’t know where they got the [current] one. Of course, they probably have access to the same info I did at the hospital which includes everything but your shoe size.

It was scary to think my privacy had been compromised in such a manner and in a place that should be thoroughly HIPAA-tized.

I took half a dose of melatonin and went to bed. I’d promised DD I would get everything straightened out this morning and that’s exactly what I did—all night long. Going over and over the script, I was going to rip somebody a new one. I’d reposition myself more comfortably, start to doze off and then think of another version of my vituperative monologue.

At 11:30 TT, I got up, found my pill splitter and took half a pain pill. I hadn’t wanted to rely on them for sleeping but I was getting desperate. Ugly words and phrases whirled through my head for the next two hours when I got up and took the other half. I was determined to get to sleep. Getting so close to feeling human again, I didn’t want that to be negated by another sleepless night.

The hours ticked by and still no sleep. Usually, I can count on nodding off by 4 a.m. At 3:30, I got up and used the bathroom and refused to look at the clock after that.

Starting to pray (which I should have done at the beginning), I prayed for everyone I could think of. Then I started praying that the Lord would help me be nice when I called Patient Accounts. I have no idea what time it was when I dozed off but I woke at 7:30 a.m.

I hadn’t heard from the pathology report. I lay in bed and called the clinic number. It’s an easy one to remember and today was the day I could call for my results. That’s what my post-op instructions said. The cheerful person answering the phone said she was sure they were back. She would give the doctor my chart for review and he would call me later today.

Four times I called Patient Accounting. The first time was before anyone was in the office. I refused to leave a detailed message on voice mail. The fourth try, I got a person. I was on speakerphone. I usually ask to be taken off but this time, I figured I’d talk and let the whole world (or whoever was in the office) hear me.

I was quite civil when I talked to the woman on the other end of the line. Could she tell me why I had not received a bill for my June visit but my daughter had? She pulled up the account and said she had no idea. Maybe my daughter had signed for me? Sometimes, if the patient is unable to sign, a relative will sign for them and the resulting bill will be sent to them. No, my daughter hasn’t been here for more than two years. I didn’t say but signing the Conditions of Admission is not supposed to obligate the person to pay any bills. Unless that person has Power of Attorney, it’s just giving permission to treat.

In the background, I could hear a printer going. Uh-huh, she was printing off the form I’d signed. She said she would notify the supervisor of Patient Access (I don’t remember what she called it but that’s what it was when I was in that position) of the error. I told her to also let the supervisor know it was a serious violation of HIPAA. She sounded a bit joyful when she said she would. Asking if I wanted said supervisor to call me, I said yes. It’s past 5 TT and I have yet to hear from her.

I waited until 2:45 TT to call the surgeon’s office again. The person answering the phone said that he’d seen patients all morning and was called this afternoon to the ER for emergency surgery. I can’t help but think if I’d let my condition go on much longer, that could have been me. I told her the more time passes when I haven’t learned my results, the more I felt it would be bad news. I was so tired, my voice cracked and I guess I sounded like I was ready to cry. She immediately started reassuring me and said if there’d been a problem, they would have had me in the office before now. I thanked her and hung up.

An hour later, the office nurse called me. Normally, she said, the patient isn’t called with the results. The surgeon would go over them with me during my regular appointment which is another week away. They will also be faxed to my PCP. So…the post-op instructions need to be revised. I made up my mind to be patient so here I am, being patient.

In spite of feeling out of it for I don’t know how long, I managed to win the last Wordscraper game with Genese. She set up another one and we’ve each played two turns. I’m waiting for her to lower the boom on me.

I tore myself away from the phone and went to the mailbox. I had a sweet note one of my church friends wrote. It’s nice to be missed.

The lawn mower is going so I guess my cousin has come home from work and is working some more. It makes me feel so useless. She’s always doing something.

Twinkle is foraging for food. I’d better go feed her before I have to clean up a mess. I’ve stayed up all day on purpose because I want to SLEEP tonight. Even though I don’t feel wonderful, I can tell I’m getting stronger but, as DH always said, smell isn’t everything.

4 Responses to Stranger Things Have Happened

  1. Lila September 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Hope tomorrow is a better day for both of us!

    • Tommie September 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      I don’t know about yours but mine has to be.

  2. Mary Jane September 11, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    Hmmm… having someone else get the bills for my medical procedures might not be a bad idea. How about having them sent to you? I have good insurance, so they won’t be for a lot.

    Strange, indeed that DD got yours. Sorry you were awake all night stewing and steaming over what happened and hope you slept last night.

    • Tommie September 11, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      The $50 was part of the $160 so far this year so I won’t be out a whole lot. What bugged me was that a hospital, of all places, violated HIPAA. If I hadn’t been a Patient Access supervisor, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much but I know the importance of keeping information private. If I chose to report it, the hospital could be hit with a huge fine. I’m not going to but they need to be more careful.

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