Money is the root of all… irony

By Mir
May 24, 2005

Recently I sat down to do my monthly bills, and made a shocking discovery.

People really like to ask me for money. People I’ve never given money to? Want my money. People I give money to on a regular basis? Want more money. People I sometimes give money to? Want me to give them some money RIGHT NOW regardless of whether it seems to me that now is a good time. People I’ve entered into contract with for set amounts of money have just RANDOMLY decided they need MORE money… it’s CRAZINESS.

I mean, is it MY fault that property taxes went up or that oil was expensive this year? No, it is not. This is NO WAY to do business, I tell you.

But my favorite kind of bill BY FAR is any bill that comes from a doctor’s office. I take them out of the envelope and pop some popcorn and sit down with a heiroglyphics translation calculator and just have a very entertaining time while ripping my hair out.

The thing about the medical bills is that they’re not for a lot of money. They’re $10 or $15 or maybe $25, most of the time. It’s not the amount; it’s the principle.

I have insurance. Insurance says: Pay a co-pay, and we’ll pay the rest. Sounds great! I pay a co-pay. I receive a bill. The bill has 15 or 20 lines of informative line items such as “Payee Contribution,” “Insurance Claim Payment,” “Random Adjustment To Billed Amount Because The Insurance Didn’t Give Us More,” “Squiggeldy Purgit Limitation Enactment,” and “Fandingus Level III Examination.”

As you may have guessed, it takes a really long time for this sort of detailed (computer-generated) report to process, so bills like this only arrive four or more months after the appointment in question.

It just seems to me that this is not what the inventor of the HMO had in mind.

So, I took a stack of various bills and spent some time, yesterday and today, making associated phone calls. I saved the piddly medical bills for last… both because I thought it made more sense to straighten out things like my mortgage, first, and because I (correctly) surmised that it was going to take a bit more effort to unravel the Mysteries of the Random Charges.

Today did not disappoint! I called the billing office. The billing office had me call the doctor’s office. The doctor’s office asked me to please call the billing office. The billing office suggested that if I had put that co-pay on my credit card, perhaps I could look it up with them? Genius.

Well, I couldn’t find the co-pay by looking it up on online with my credit card. But… huh. Wait a second. No charge at the pediatrican’s office on the day in question. But a charge… at the airport. Wait. I was at the airport and the pediatrician on the same day??

Noooo. I was a the airport. Without the kids. Nowhere near the doctor’s office. Headed out of town. Okay.

Moving right along, I contacted my ex to find out if HE had been to the pediatrician for Monkey that day. Noooo… he’d taken Chickadee to an appointment at a different office, that day, but Monkey had been fine.

Hadn’t he?

I called the doctor’s office back.

Me: Yeah, hi, me again. Here’s the thing. I didn’t bring Monkey in that day. In fact, I was out of town. Monkey’s father says HE didn’t bring him in. And neither of us remember him being sick. So, um, I’m really confused. Can you please check his chart and tell me why he was supposedly there?

Response from woman at the ped’s office: Blah blah blah blah privacy laws blah blah blah blah confidentiality blah blah blah blah cannot reveal that information over the phone.

Me: Okay, yeah, fine. Guess what. Unless you tell me why he was there, I am gonna have to assume you people made this up. Throw me a bone, here.

Response from woman at the ped’s office: Blah blah blah blah can’t really reveal that blah blah blah blah could get in a lot of trouble blah blah blah blah slipped on the ice and hit his head.

Me: Whaaaaaat? OH! You’re a doll, thank you very much.

Back to the ex again.

Me: Hey, remember that CRAZY thing where you went to take Chickadee to the doctor at the other office except THAT day she was in THAT office and you told me how on your way in, Monkey slipped and hit his head and so once you got inside they got all weird because he was still screaming and said they HAD to check him out for liability reasons? THEY CHARGED US FOR THAT. (Also, I feel strangely close to you as apparently we’ve just experienced our first bout of collective amnesia. Oh, wait… I’m over it now.)

Him: Oh, can I call them?? PRETTY PRETTY PLEASE?

Me: Um, no. I’d rather they didn’t tag our children’s charts with “psycho parents.” I’ll handle it.

Him: Be sure to use the word “idiotic” when you talk to them.

Back to the billing office.

Me: Yeah, guess what. I really think you don’t want to charge me for the cursory 30-second exam some medical assistant gave my son because it apparently hadn’t occurred to anyone that it might be a good idea to clear your steps of ice when you are a PEDIATRICIAN’S OFFICE.

Her: Oh, well, hmmm, it wasn’t marked on here not to charge you.

Me: Listen, I wasn’t there. But I can tell you that if we took that kid to the doctor every time he hit his head, we’d be flat broke. He was examined because he was THERE and he’d been injured ON YOUR PROPERTY. My ex-husband tells me that he was not given a choice in the matter. Therefore I’m guessing you’re going to waive the co-pay.

Her: Oh. Um. Okay, I can do that. What about the other appointment on that bill?

Me: Oh, crap. Yeah, I’m still working on that one. Lemme get back to you.

But, hey, $15 down, eleventy hundred or so dollars to go. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the rising oil prices are in any way connected to anything as useful as my children cracking their skulls at the doctor’s office.


  1. jungs

    I often complain to my Hus that we’re just the middle-men when it comes to money and paying bills. It doesn’t stay long in our bank account long enough to collect dust. And those doctcor bills! Arrgh! Aren’t they frustrating!

    May link you? : )

  2. Amy

    Oh, I really think I would have let the ex call – for the sheer entertainment value. I find that being tagged as a psycho parent can actually work for you, in certain situations…;)
    I feel your pain, financially speaking – I’m currently fighting the phone company!

  3. Zee

    Oh good grief. There’s a special circle of hell reserved for people who work in the billing departments of insurance companies, doctors’ offices and any other such place. Definitely feel for you – dealing with insurance is a nightmare even in the best of circumstances!

  4. LL

    Delurking to say that no, the rising oil prices have not thing one to do with your children. They are directly related to the fact that I just got a boyfriend. A boyfriend who lives across friggin’ town from me. Bah!!!

  5. carson

    I have over 10 years experience in medical billing, and it’s a PITA for me to deal with that stuff. Never ever ever just pay from the doctor bill without comparing it to what your insurance company says you are responsible for. The people processing the payments are idiots. (I know there are exceptions, I was one, so don’t send me any hate mail.)

    The hospital keeps sending me bills for $1400 from the birth of my son that I am not responsible for. They know it, I know it, the American people know it. They are hoping the insurance will come back and pay more. (They are wrong.)

    Oh, and the kid is 16 months old.

  6. ben

    I just love bills from the medical community!

    (can you tell I’m writing this through clenched teeth? I am)

    My favorite was our foster son who was hospitalized for three or four days. We get a bill for $10,000. Uh, no, send this to the state, thanks. No problem! Never heard from them again.

    Two months later – I get a bill for $22 from some provider that (like you said) had to computerize everything. Again, we said send it to the state. NO, WE CAN’T DO THAT. I spent a YEAR trying to get them to adjust this $22 charge. Finally they just wrote it off. But not without something snarky on my credit report, I’m sure.

    Yes, love love LOVE bills. And I’m an accountant…

  7. lynn

    I’m having the exact same experience this week. I’ve just gotten bills from my doctor’s office for medial co-pays from 2-4 years ago. It took that long for them to ask me for the money? First, they billed me for $30, but when I called them to ask about it, they said, whoops – actually you owe us $100. So why did they only bill for $30? Who knows. $80 of it was co-pays from when I was pregnant. But the OB dept doesn’t collect co-pays! After I switched practices, I was billed for and paid the $80, in 2000. But my account was never credited. The billing lady said that the $80 was listed as “abandoned property!” Ha ha! Yes, I threw away that $80, I didn’t mean for you to credit my account with it! Then another $10 was for a co-pay in 2003. Luckily, since I save cancelled checks, I have the proof of payment from that day. So she finally said that she would waive the other, unexplained $10 and get the collection agency off my back. Unbelievable!

  8. Beth

    My favorite part of doctor bills are where they list the charge as $1,293,384,282.54 and the insurance company pays them $56 and everybody is happy.

  9. Jennifer

    I actually LIKE making the Drs. office think we are insane. I figure we go to the Dr. so much I’m making his car payment anyway. I might as well have some fun with it. Glas to know there are others out there =)

  10. Hope

    I just got a bill for a splint for my finger, which consisted of 2 sticks and some paper tape, to the tune of $108. I was going to run down to the store and replace the splint material, and charge them $1008 for the 10 other ones they could make out of the remaining stuff.

  11. notdonnareed

    My personal favorite is the “usual and customary” line. Who decides what is usual and customary? I mean, I think a gallon of gas should cost a dollar, tops, but it doesn’t. Maybe I have expensive taste in doctors, but I have never failed to exceed what the insurance was willing to pay.

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