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Health Care 101…


Dearest Readers:

Saturday, I received a bill for a mammogram. Opening the envelope, I was curious why I received a bill for my annual mammogram performed in November, 2014. Wasn’t it just a bit late for them to send me a bill? And — why did the invoice state I was ‘uninsured?’ Was this the new/improved (???) OBAMACARE? Are mammograms no longer paid for by medical insurance? I’ve heard many stories about dear ole’ “Obamacare.” To be totally honest, I have no interest in fighting for medical rights — like I did in 1998-1999.

Readers – you will love the scenario I am about to share! Listen carefully! In February, 1998 – exactly at the same time my father is hospitalized with esophageal cancer, chemo/radiation therapy and a blood transfusion, my husband was rushed to the same hospital. Two days later, it was determined that he needed a quadruple heart bypass. Now, the two most important men in my life were fighting for survival. Yes, I did wonder how God had me pulled in two directions — actually it was three directions. The first my beloved father. Second – my husband. He knew he was second place now since my father was terminal and diagnosed not to live more than six months. Third place was my job at a college. I was told I (and I quote the exact words) — “I needed to get my priorities in order.” After all, it was almost March…a time to give speeches, tours and a time to meet the demands of a demanding career. “Get a life…My priorities ARE in order. My family comes first!”

I do recall rushing from one hospital wing to the cardiac wing to make certain all was AOK. But — ALL WAS NOT OK! While my father rested in bed, strapped to IV’s, oxygen and blood transfusions, I sat with my husband — striving to be strong. I was determined not to cry in front of either of them. Desperately afraid to show my fears, I recall rushing to the Atrium at Roper Hospital. There in that peaceful room filled with comfortable sofas, chairs and a small balcony, I found my peace standing on the balcony. Watching traffic rushing by, horns blowing from drivers who were rushing in a rage to their destinations, I wondered just how many would be admitted soon — from heart attacks, stress, accidents and attempted suicides. “Life is short,” I recall shouting, only no one could hear me. I looked up to the beautiful blue sky, the sunshine shining brightly, almost blinding me from the radiance of it. I prayed…and prayed…and PRAYED some more. Then, wiping my eyes — I screamed. After all, due to the hustle bustle of the rushing traffic congestion in downtown Charleston, SC, no one would hear my screams.

Leaving the Atrium, I walked to the elevator. My shoulders drooped. Head hanging as I wiped tears. Looking into a mirror, I noticed my mascara was smeared. I found a restroom, grabbing my makeup I attempted to hide the raccoon eyes staring back at me. I reached for my Jackie Onassis style sunglasses. Just how I would survive this true test of life was unknown. Somehow I found the strength to be there for my husband at night and on the day of his heart surgery. I visited my dad. He kissed me, telling me to go back to my husband. I felt as if my body was rubber, or some stretching fabric and all I had to do was ask two people to pull my arms so I could stretch from one wing of the hospital to the other. My dad lived until July of 1999. My husband’s heart surgery went well…Seventeen years later, I still can say, Yes, my husband has a heart after all. Believe me, due to his PTSD as a Vietnam Veteran, I have often wondered if he really had a heart!

Readers, by now you may be curious why I regressed with those stories, but today when I phoned the medical facility that sent me the bill, I remember how thankful I was that I learned to document so much when my dad was ill, and when my husband was ill. My dad was admitted to Roper Hospital so many times, I made extra copies of all of his medical cards, Social Security Number and his ID, just so every time I could get him admitted. Yes, according to Obama Care medical treatments are supposedly more efficient now — due to technology. Let us hope so! When I served as the caregiver to my dad, I learned to carry a notebook, write questions and answers down…date and time stamp everything.

After my dad passed away, I sent letters to every hospital, doctor, insurance company…etc…etc…reminding them they needed to finalize additional bills to my attention. Exactly 16 months after my dad’s death, I received a bill – totaling over $1600. I phoned the company. Someone from billing reminded me I needed to pay the bill. “My father died 16 months ago and now you are saying I must pay $1600 due? I don’t think so.” Of course, the billing supervisor placed me on hold. When she returned, I reminded her the company was attempting to collect money from someone deceased.

Placed on HOLD once again, she returned. “We’ve decided to write this bill off,” she replied.

“Good,” I said. Documenting her name, the time of the conversation and date, I am pleased to say, I never heard another word from them.

I have a laundry list of scenarios I could share, including how it took me fighting with medical professionals for over another 16 months (is there something strange about this??) to get my husband’s medical bills paid. Both of us had medical insurance…both were with BCBS…and ALL were a hassle just to get paid. Nevertheless, let’s just say, I can be most persuasive when I need to be. After all — there are two B’s in my name. Do you dare to ask why? One = Blonde. The other — perhaps you should decide! Many of my friends tell me I have the style and demeanor of Julia Sugarbaker, and that’s on my good days! Nevertheless, I got those issues resolved!

Today, while speaking to BCBS and the medical facility, let’s just say, I do not owe the $69 dollars for the mammogram! This truly set the wheels turning for me.

*How many people receiving such invoices — four months later — just how many would assume the amount due WAS their responsibility and not the responsibility of the insurance company? *How many people would simply PAY the bill owed?

Since 1998, I suppose I have become extremely educated and pro-active where medical bills and the proper way to file them are concerned. Yes, advocate is another way to describe me!

SUGGESTIONS

I would like to suggest to ALL of my readers, please be pro-active. Become an advocate to fight for your rights.
Be diplomatic. Phone the company to inquire about how the bill was processed.
Phone your health insurance company. When speaking with these professionals –have paper and pen ready to document the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW to resolve these issues.
Yes, it is time consuming.
Yes, it is stressful, but the end result could be you do not owe this bill.
Don’t assume the bill will be resolved. Request follow up and a paid-in-full statement!

I wish you the best! We must all be pro-active and not assuming that this new health care known as ObamaCare is improved. Personally, I doubt it!

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