After battling my way through the main switchboard, with digressions to some seemingly random offices, I ended up at the accounting and billing department. The lady there brought up my record and informed me that this bill was for a procedure performed in January of last year. Since the procedure was to remove a tumor (Oh, haven't I mentioned that before?), I expressed my surprise that my health insurance did not cover the bill. There was a rustling of papers at her end, followed by a thoughtful pause, followed by her saying "hmm" under her breath. She then told me that she was going to put me on hold while she handed me over to her supervisor.
By the time the supervisor came on the line, I was feeling somewhat disgruntled. I pointed out that, whenever I go to a new doctor or to any medical facility, the first thing I have to do is fill out a telephone directory-sized stack of papers. I have to sit there for hours entering the same information page by page, over and over again, ad nauseam. Amazingly enough, this information actually included my name and address. I went on to say that, based on this, I was somewhat surprised to discover that the hospital was sending bills to an address from so far in my past that I'd forgotten all about it.
I reiterated my point about being surprised that my insurance had not covered this bill. Once again, there was a thoughtful pause, and then the supervisor said, "It's worse than you think... looking at these papers, it appears that we didn't even file this bill with your insurance company in the first place."
I was flabbergasted by this news. Rarely has my flabber been so gasted. The lady then said, "Whatever you do, don't pay this bill." (It's a pity the hospital hadn't taken this attitude right from the beginning. That would have saved us all a lot of trouble.) I responded that I had paid it to the collection agency over the phone a few minutes earlier. Once again, there was a thoughtful pause, and then the lady leaped into action.
Apparently, Huntsville Hospital passes quite a lot of unpaid bills to this collection agency, so the lady has developed a close relationship with the agency's head. She informed me that, as soon as we finished our conversation, she would call that person and ask for an immediate refund to my credit card. She would then contact all the credit agencies, explain that it was a mistake, ask that it be expunged from my records, and send me a letter putting all this in writing.
Would that life were so easy. It's my understanding that it can take quite some time for one's credit score to recover from this sort of thing. On the bright side, at least I discovered that there was a problem, and I managed to sort it out. It would have been a pain if I were ever to be rushed to the hospital, and the hospital said, "We can't treat you, because you owe us some money."
Another thing that just struck me is that I pay one of the big three credit companies a monthly retainer to inform me if anyone tries to open an account in my name or if anything occurs to hurt my credit. I never received any notification about the collection agency sullying my good name. As soon as I finish this blog, I think another telephone call is in order. In the meantime, has anything like this ever happened to you?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting