But I just gave some poor billing agent for Aurora Medical Center in Milwaukee an earful about how messed up his company is that it couldn’t figure out a way to contact me about a past due bill from a check-up at a clinic I’ve been going to for 30 years.
I got a new cell phone number almost a year ago, but it didn’t dawn on me to send a text to the clinic to make sure they had it. When I moved three months after the visit they still hadn’t sent me a bill, and I didn’t think to include them on my email to my friends and family with my new address. I finally heard from them about the bill three weeks ago, and I updated all of my information and told them to send me a bill right away so I could clear it up.
Today I got a collection notice. I was perturbed.
See, the doctor I saw, I’ve known for nearly my entire life. I carried his son’s casket out of the church when he died 13 years ago. I know most of the nurses at his clinic. I went to school with their kids, and coached the children of other staff members. But the bills don’t come from the clinic anymore, they come from Aurora’s offices in Milwaukee, where they never thought to call the clinic that actually provided the services to see if they knew how to reach me (I think the doctor has my cell phone number in his phone). “It’s your responsibility to update your information,” the billing agent said to me. “We can’t be looking for you.”
Interesting. They’ll send several bills to an old address, call an old cell phone number, and arrange for a collection agency to send me a notice, but one call to the clinic that actually performed the services that they are billing me for - their own clinic - that is out of the question?
I might have made this point, and I might have launched into a lecture on how this is not the way the clinic would have operated 10 years ago, before Aurora strong-armed clinics up the Lake Michigan shoreline into selling out. That might have happened. And I might have made a point about this being a reflection of why our health care system is a mess (and this has everything to do with corporate health care and nothing to do with insurance. I pay cash. I have “in-case-of-catastrophe” insurance. I’m fine with that – well, not fine. I tried to get price quotes for procedures before I went in, but they couldn’t provide them. Since I thought I might have a heart problem, I figured I better go get it checked out regardless of the cost. So there’s a little more proof that the free market doesn’t work so well with health care. It’s hard to be an informed consumer when you’re worried, or scared, about your health. You just want to fix it).
I preached for a while. The billing agent didn’t say anything. There was silence on the line. “I know you and Aurora probably won’t give a shit,” I said.
Another pause. Then, “thank you sir…” and before he could go into his “is there anything else I can do for you today” spiel, I hung up.
Well, I feel better anyway.