The Expatriated Consumer

Imagining life without debt. Working to make it reality.

Have some respect!

Posted by Max Finkle on July 23, 2008

I griped some time ago about an outstanding medical bill that wasn’t covered by my insurance in a previous post. They were trying to whack me $275 for some labs that my doctor’s office had sent to the wrong laboratory company. My insurer mandates that all labs go to one specific company for processing, and my doctor’s office decided they liked this other company better. So, here I was stuck shouldering the cost. The bill sat on my desk for three months, until I could stand it no more, and simply had to call to arrange some sort of compromise, or at the very least, a payment plan.

Now, it is a medical related bill, and if I so desired, I could simply ignore it, and it would go to collection, I would get pestered for a little while and then it would go away. But, money works in mysterious ways, and I’ve begun to believe that if you treat your money with care & respect, it will treat you likewise. To ignore this bill would have been an abuse of my money, and the negativity would carry through to other parts of my finances. I’m not entirely sure why it works this way, but it seems to.

Two hundred & seventy five dollars seemed a trifle too much to me, and when the nice lady picked up on the other end, I let her know it. The conversation went similarly to this:

Her: “Hello, my name is Sydney (not her real name) how can I help you?”

Me: Hi, I’m Jeremy, I am calling regarding a bill I received.

Her: OK, may I have your account number?

Me: Certainly. It’s OU812 (Not the real account number).

Her: Thank you. I see you have an outstanding balance of $275.

Me: Yes, that what I’m calling to discuss. That seems a little high.

Her: Well, I understand how you feel, but that is what we normally charge for those services.

Me: Now, I know that you give discounts to insurers, so that those very same labs would cost significantly less for them. I’m just wondering how I might qualify for that very same sort of discount. I would like to pay the bill, but it really is more than I can hack right now.

Her: I’m sorry, but we are unable to do that. We have contracts with insurers that give them those discounts, unfortunately, there is no such arrangement for the services on this bill.

Me: I understand that, since you are unable to help me, could you put me in touch with someone who maybe could?

Her: Well, I can try to get my supervisor.

Me: Tell you what, if you simply knock 50% off the bill, I will send you a check for that entire amount today.

Her: Here, let me put you through to my supervisor.

Me: OK.

Supervisor: Hello, my name is Rachel (not her real name), can I help you?

Me: I’m having an issue with this bill. It seems my insurance won’t cover it, because they contract with a different lab, and now I’m stuck with it.

Rachel: I see, so basically your doctor’s office sent the specimens to be processed at the wrong lab. That happens a lot. Actually, is this the first time this has happened to you?

Me: Yeah.

Rachel: If I remember correctly, your insurer does provide a clause for issues like this, and will offer a one time payment to cover it. You’ll just have to work with your doctor’s office to be sure any future labs are sent to the appropriate processor. I will call the contact person at your insurance that deals with these issues, and see if we can get them to cover our services to you this one time.

Me: Really? Thank you so much! Thank you very much for your time and have a good day.

Rachel: Thank you, and goodbye.

I spent three months steaming over this bill. I’ve mulled it over, trying to figure out what transpired in my life recently to make this issue work out in my favor. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m developing a new respect for money. I’m changing the way I think about it and feel about it, and how I handle it. Furthermore, two significant things happened this week:

1. I donated a sizable sum to a charity organization for the first time in my life, despite my own financial difficulties. I’ve come to believe in the power of giving, and the positive effects it has on your life. It feels good to know that I did something small, but extraordinary (to me, anyway) with my money. Normally I fret about bills unpaid, and get depressed because of it, and use that to justify not sharing my good fortune.
2. I faced the music regarding a bill I owed, even though the mistake wasn’t mine that produced it. Instead of taking the easy way out, and ignoring it, knowing that the long term consequences were nil, I decided to respect my money and do the right thing. I was prepared to pay it.

In turn, the consequence was that the solution to this issue with the lab company ended up saving me, not just a portion of the bill, but the entire balance due. To top it off, I’m coming away from this knowing that it was settled properly, and not just swept under the carpet. Something just seems right about the whole thing to me. Any thoughts anyone?

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