"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Friday, March 07, 2014

... perhaps MORE savvy than a pet rock.

At least, I HOPE that's a good description of the heads of hospital billing services. :-)

With any luck, this may be my final word on my financial disaster stemming from my accident in late July last year (chronicled in boring detail in A Scream of Pain. )

I had thought that when I finally reached a summing up point, it would have to be called "Death by a thousand cuts", in honor of hospital billing systems that separately bill for various activities and trickle them out over a period of months, so you're never quite sure when you have the whole picture.

At present, it appears there are three accounts to deal with from St. Josephs Medical Center and four from Memorial Hermann Hospital, totaling about $6100.00 altogether. I have yet to hear anything about the last of the Memorial Hermann accounts, but I should find out something next week.

Many people have told me that if I pay SOMETHING on the bills each month, the billing departments are unlikely to push any further. They just might be right.

The biggest monster among those bills, for $2369.40, I received just a few days after the accident. I wanted to get the whole picture before starting any payments. But, in early October, an invoice for that bill threatened to turn it over to an outside agency for collection if I didn't call them and state my intentions.

THAT scared me. If a collection agency takes on the debt as its own, they can take actions, such as hauling you into Small Claims Court where you are at the mercy of a judge, who just might be capable of ANYTHING in his calls. I recall a manager of a company I used to work for telling me about a judgment he received in an alimony and child support case, and explaining to the judge, "Your Honor: That's more than I MAKE", getting the reply, "Well, you're just going to have to get a second job, aren't you?".

So, I called them and talked to a receptionist (you NEVER get anyone in charge). I told her that I could maybe manage $60.00 to $70.00 a month on the entire bill. As I already felt that bill to be in the $6000.00 range, we were talking about 1% a month on the individual bills.  She said she would pass that information along, but she felt they would insist on $300.00 a month as a minimum payment. Well, THAT was as impossible as $300 MILLION, so I just hung up, feeling that further conversation was useless with her.

BUT, a couple of days later (Oct 9) I went onto their web site and opened up an account on that bill and made a payment of $25.00 (1% of $2369.40 rounded up to the next multiple of $5.00). It accepted the payment. So far, so good. A few days later, an invoice arrived thanking me for the payment and demanding the rest of the total within ten days or call that number again (which seemed pointless after the last experience). A couple of weeks later, another invoice arrived, repeating the collection agency threat.

The next month (Nov 9 - trying to be consistent as computers seem to like that :-) I logged onto the account and made another such payment, and then opened up another account on the second St. Joseph's bill and paid $15.00 on that.

So far, I've made five payments on the monster (number six coming up in a couple of days) and the same pattern repeats (Thank you, followed by threat) making me pretty sure I am dealing with billing software here.

BUT, so far the threat hasn't been carried out, and each time I log on, I see the total is down by exactly the amounts I've paid in (meaning NO interest or penalties have been tacked on).

THIS is what makes me hopeful that, SOMEWHERE in the loop is a REAL LIVE HUMAN BEING, ... perhaps MORE savvy than a pet rock (now you know where title comes from :-) who understands that, YES, they CAN scare the Hell out of me by playing hardball, but all they'll acquire by doing THAT would be a notification from a Federal Bankruptcy Court.

At present, I'm now making monthly payments on six of the seven accounts, and maybe by next week I'll find out if the seventh is also doable.

If so, I'll be literally paying for the rest of my life, but they should be payments I can handle.

With luck, I can drop THIS subject and get back to posting about things that interest me.

BTW, yesterday, I updated my "Posts I Feel Good About ..." (see column on left side of page) with eight entries, near the top. Hope you'll give them a look, and not be bored. :-)

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