Despite agitated discussions with the billing company to find out what we owed (“We don’t know, we just send you the bills”), and the hospital (“Everything is being processed by your insurance company”) and our insurer (“We are still waiting for the final bills from the hospital”), it took seven months before we got a final bill.More and more hospitals use outside billing agencies. Every visit or procedure has a different account number (have you ever tried paying these bills with Quicken?) Even if you see the same doctor in follow-up, that visit has a new account number. This is because every bill that goes to Medicare must be independently tracked, so if it is denied, it can be "scrubbed" and resubmitted. This assures the hospital receives its money quickly, but makes it nearly impossible for the patient to know how much has and has not been paid for each their healthcare encounters and procedures. The problems are compounded further by the realization that many doctors are independent contactors working within the hospital's walls with their own bills. It's no wonder patients are confused.
It's an absolute mess.
But with all of the electronics and billing programs and collections agencies out there, somehow we just can't seem to find a solution for the patient. Amazing. Google can compile 3.8 million references to "Hospital bill" in 0.19 seconds, but we still can't get a single hospital bill consolidated in under seven months. Crazy.
I would say that the first hospital that fixes this mess with a patient-centric solution should become America's Top Hospital for 2008. (US News, are you listening?)
But, as we know, it's all just more financial obfuscation and rationing. All in the name of Big Business, so the patient is left to flounder.