Earlier this summer, my husband had a dermatology procedure done in a local office. We had picked that office because they offered the best price – we knew nothing about them beforehand.
Over the last few months, we’ve gone back and forth with them about the bill. Basically, they quoted about $300 plus pathology over the phone when my husband explained what he needed. We’ve long since paid the pathology bill ($85), but the bill for the whole procedure is still unresolved. The billing person that we worked with was great – but she’s in a different office and is just contracted for the billing. Her hands were pretty much tied, although she did manage to wrangle a small discount for us. When we actually talked with the office manager of the dermatology practice, I was horrified by the fact that anyone like this can get a job that involves dealing with the public. She was rude and condescending, and the idea of apologizing never even occured to her. Both my husband and I talked with her, and were equally shocked by her behavior. She actually hung up on my husband when he was trying to explain our position – I was in the room listening, and heard him talking in a calm voice and being continually cut off by her interrupting him.
Both my husband and I are pretty easy-going people. We are not quick to anger, we don’t send restaurant meals back if they’re not exactly what we ordered, we don’t get angry with airline ticket agents if our flight is cancelled or delayed. We’ve both been in jobs that require a high level of customer service skills for almost 10 years; we’re very careful to treat others the way we would like to be treated, and tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. But this woman was horrid.
We basically came to the conclusion that the person who quoted $300 over the phone was pulling the number out of the air. There is no way in the world she was basing her estimate on any of the actual billing codes that the doctor uses. And yet before we had the procedure done, the only way we could get prices was to call around and trust the office staff to give us numbers that were at least loosely based on real billing codes. We feel cheated with this whole thing. We would never have had the procedure done if we had gotten an estimate even close to what they charged us, and yet after it’s done, we’re stuck with the bill, like it or not.
We filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau a couple weeks ago, and the BBB has told us that they’ve forwarded the complaint on to the doctor’s office. Our insurance agency is a member of the BBB (and we’ve never had a complaint in 5 years of business), so we’re familiar with the procedure. If the doctor’s office does not respond to the notice from the BBB, they end up with an “unresolved complaint” notation on their file. So far they have not responded, and I’m not really surprised. Throughout this entire mess, they’ve made it clear that their only priority is making money – once that’s done, they have no need for basic civility, ethical business practices, or customer service. The sad part is that since they’re on the network for several big insurance companies, they know that they will still get business from people who just find them on a provider directory.
I talked with the billing lady about installment payments, and she said that it would be fine to make payments – she even told me that a lot of people only pay $50/month. There is no interest charged on outstanding bills as long as a payment is made each month. We’ve paid $200 so far, and I intend to pay $100/month until it’s paid off. There is no way that I’m cleaning out our HSA right now to pay these aholes.
The funny thing is that we have the money in the HSA to pay the whole bill. Even after all this time and as badly as they’ve behaved for the last 2 months, if they were to call us today and apologize for their ridiculous quoting method (ie, pulling numbers out of the air) and the way that they’ve treated our very ligitimate concerns, we would pay the whole bill tomorrow. When we submitted our complaint with the BBB, we decided that if they made any effort at all to compromise with us and offer a genuine apology, we would pay the bill in full. But since they have ignored us and ignored the BBB, they will be floating a 0% loan to us for over a year. They earned their own bad karma.