Bills, Bills, Bills….

World gonna be so cruel to you, world gonna be so mean. I’ll catch you when you’re fallin’ through. I’m gonna throw on you, like a trampoline.

That song made me feel better today, so I wanted to share it.

I got back from an awesome, but non-budgeted vacation only to be greeted by an unexpected $600 medical bill. Yippee!

After rounds of phone calls with nurses, insurance agents and billing people, I found out that the reason for the bill is because my in-network specialists billed insurance as “outpatient hospital visit” rather than “in office visit.”

The problem is that my in-network specialist rate of a $50 copay apparently only applies under certain codes. And this particular hospital didn’t know the magic words. That leaves it as being charged against my deductible, a way higher amount. My insurance claimed they can’t do anything about (United Healthcare BTW).

So, I went back to billing at the hospital, who told me that it was state law that they bill it that way. I called bullshit – the other rheumatologist that I see also has an office in a hospital, and I’ve never been charged more than my copay (they’re in the same state, in case you’re wondering). Billing claimed there was nothing they could do except offer me a payment plan.

So that leaves me hounding the nurses to resubmit the bills. I feel bad about this. Nurses already have a million things on their plate, but should I really be penalized $600 because they chose to use one code over another, equally applicable code? I haven’t heard back from them yet.

The whole mess is frustrating. I went to this doctor because they were in-network. I triple checked the UHC website to make sure of it, so that I wouldn’t be charged out-of-network rates.

A system that requires you to jump through hoops, call and clarify every little visit, procedure and test before it’s done, speak to insurance about which codes to use, and then hound nurses to make sure they’re filing bills under the codes that work for your particular insurance policy is broken. And bureaucratic BS.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful. My insurance allows me to be on medication¬†for less than $500 per year, when it would otherwise be costing me about $32,000 per year (Enbrel and methotrexate), and therefore is something I couldn’t live without. But that doesn’t mean the system’s not rife with inexplicable inconsistencies, nonsensical loopholes and traps, and a whole lot of incomprehensible coding and rules.

I don’t have answers for you, I only know Obamacare won’t solve it. Do you have advice or insurance horror stories? I’d love to hear them!

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