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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Healthcare billing: He's pregnant, so they billed Workmen's Comp

In getting my son off to college, I just ran across this story, which occurred just before he was born, when my wife Daryl was pregnant.

Ken's story, Sept. 15, 1989:

We've kept Daryl's pregnancy confidential until recently, hoping to restrict the news to a small circle of our parents, closest friends, doctors, nurses, technicians, receptionists, and medical records technicians. Imagine our surprise when the first bill was sent promptly to her employer!
Telephoning, I learned that of course, this information was not released maliciously; bills for Workmen's Compensation are always sent to the company. But wait! This wasn't an accident; it was a planned pregnancy. And the process that brought it about was definitely not industrial, mechanical, or manufactured. In short, it wasn't a Workmen's Comp claim, as should have been obvious from a cursory reading. Apparently, the billing clerk at the doctor's office somehow entered Workmen's Compensation as the payer. When the computer did not immediately reject the claim, the clerk assumed it was okay, as did the laboratory staff and hospital staff. The computer didn't express any surprise that my pregnant insured wife Daryl was "male," nor that a urine sample was claimed as an inpatient procedure, nor that Workmens Comp will not pay for pregnancy (which my wife, I hope, did not incur on the job!).

During my phone call, I tried to reach the only person whose name appeared on the bill, but she had left the hospital staff. Instead, I reached a clerk who had initialled the bill. Her spoken English was modest, so I explained: No, my wife does not have a baby. No, we didn't have a baby that died. Yes, my wife is fat, but I don't mean that she is at high risk because of it; she is getting fatter, and in a few months she will have a baby and then she will not be fat. And so on.

The story has a happy ending: our HMO was billed, so neither Daryl's employer nor we had to pay. More importantly, our son was born several months later, and is now a fine young man of 21.

I wrote this story on the birthday of my father, may he rest in peace, and I can hear his ready laugh.

Ken's Advice: Dispute your bill if you have to, and keep your sense of humor.

Read more stories in my book, Getting Your Best Health Care: Real-World Stories for Patient Empowerment.


Nurse and Hospital Stories said...

haha. This is really funny, eh. I don't know if healthcare admins are looking and reading their patient's healthcare billing. Good thing this story ended happily but how about if not?

Thanks for sharing,
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laura sharon said...

As much as three quarters of hospital staff are usually burdened with some sort of billing-related work in a traditional billing system. Opting for electronic medical billing solutions (ones that come with free EMR plans) that fit easily into the healthcare business' workflow are key to freeing up staff resources.
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