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Paying the Bills

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First Draft Krewe in NOLA

  • Click above image for our Hurricane Katrina coverage, including photos and stories from our recent First Draft New Orleans trip.

Lower 9th Ward: March 2006

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    These are stills captured from video shot March 2006 in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans specifically the area between N. Claiborne, Florida Ave, Tupelo and Tennessee.

Lower 9th Ward: August 2006

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    These are photos and stills captured from video taken August 2006 of the Lower 9th Ward specifically the area between N. Claiborne, Florida Ave, Tupelo and Tennessee.

Paying The Bills

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May 16, 2011


Hey, just about to get on to skype (I'm in NZ) to argue with insurance and doctors about billing for my son (age 20)in the States. He was alone, in a strange city when he got MSRA in his leg. I would pay the whole damn thing outright for the second hospital and team of doctors that properly diagnosed and treated him. Not so entranced at the first group that totally missed it. Thought we had 80% coverage after the deductible but there are so many damned loopholes, that we get more like 40 to 50% coverage. They won't pay for a second doctor on the day of a surgical procedure (she tells me that even removing earwax is a sterile, therefore surgical, procedure) so the doctors at the second hospital, the ones that actually saved his life, will be paid by us, not the doctor. They won't pay two different billing codes from anyone dr on the same day. On and on it goes. What, I didn't read all the fine print on the insurance policy that we got for him? It's down there somewhere.

I do believe we are being trained to not read the fine print, 54 page contracts. And some of it might be written on disappearing ink.

This is coming from a household that has three Masters degrees and one PhD among us. We aren't stupid. But if we, with our education and savy, keep getting caught out like this, who will save those without education, time, or money.

We're encouraging our kids to emigrate like we did.

I was going to see an orthopedist for a problem I was having related to running. It wasn't a big problem, so I had time to call around and ask about prices etc before making an appointment. One of the calls I made was to the office of a doctor who is associated to UW Hospitals. They quoted me $140 for an office visit, which sounded a little high to me, but the guy had a good reputation, etc. so I made and went to the appointment.

Bill comes, $140 for the office visit. And a second bill comes for another $140, for a "UW Hospitals facilities charge".

But I hadn't gone to a UW Hospital, I had gone to an office building. "Oh, but that building has a physical therapy clinic thing in it, so it qualifies for the charge". But that was never mentioned when I called to ask how much. "Oh, but there was a plaque on the wall that detailed the charge when you 'checked in' for your office visit." But nobody pointed out that plaque. "But it was there".

After a couple days of this crap, I sat down and wrote each of the two billing offices a letter detailing the whole mess and included a $70 check in each of the two envelopes, and told them that they'd have to sue me to see one more penny out of me. They both sent back letters saying that they'd make a one-time adjustment/exception in this case; but for my next appointment, the facilities charge would apply. (That's not gonna be an issue any of us will have to worry about, if you know what I mean.)


You know who has the time, resources, and motivation to shop for electricity? Factories. Ask the average Josephine if she loves being able to shop for phone or air fare and you get an earful. And guess what happens when that low-cost provider realizes that the cost of electrons has gone up and it's no longer profitable to provide them to you for that low rate? Said provider, who is a ring-fenced LLC, goes bankrupt and walks away from its contract w/ you. And the good old electric company has to step in and provide you with electrons. It's happened more than once.

Robert, UW Physicians recruits off the bottom o0f the barrel. It is shameful that they are associated with the normally-great University of Washington Medical Center. The UW physicians are very good but their business side is run by morons. It is likely that what they told you at first was not true and that their "exception" was an ass-covering maneuver.

Do the rest of us a favor and complain to the Attorney General. You can do it online.

Assuming, of course, that you are talking about Washington. But I would still complain.

Brenda -

I probably should have specified, but I think of this as a mostly Madison WI blog; it was U of Wisconsin.

Medicare for all!!!

Imagine you are 80 years old and have to do all this healthcare insurance work while you sick. Ryancare thinks it will be a snap. Palli

IMHO, to call yourself a conservative in today's environment is to associate yourself with a particularly mean, parochial, short-sighted, miserly, and just generally ugly segment of our society. And these people will never change their viewpoint because, even if they find themselves in the same situation as the losers they look down on, it will always be someone else's fault or someone else who that doesn't look like them who undeservedly received the rewards they should have gotten.

I'm not saying liberals are princes (or princesses), but they do generally aspire to the better side of humanity.

I moved into a Co-Op development with its own electrical plant in 1999, just about the time that Retail Choice was begun in NYS, allowing people to shop for an retail electricity provider. I did a little research on-line and found that none of the companies had their actual rates on their web pages. The usual thing was to say you (the buyer) signed a contract for a year's service; at the end of the year, your power usage and cost to the retail provider would be compared to the comparable amount of power provided by Con Edison and you would receive a discount if the retailer's costs were less. It didn't seem that you would receive money back from the retailer, you would receive a credit for your next contract year. In any case the lower costs seemed to hover around $13 A YEAR. I may misremembering some of the details of how the plan worked, but I know I figured out the $13 part on my own. Again, no numbers were given on web sites.

A little background: I once worked as a paralegal in a public utilities law dept of a major NY firm. I read and dealt with power purchase contracts and rate cases and although it was before NYS's deregulation, some things don't change. If I had a hard time understanding the rate structure of the retailers with my background, I doubt people who have no idea of how rates are determined could understand and pick a better (i.e. seemingly cheaper) provider. At least at the start of Retail Choice most NYers were still buying from Con Ed or other old-time provider. The PSC probably wondered why Retail Choice wasn't working -- got news for them, no one could understand it. It was easier to stay with known quantity.

One point about electricity: it is a different purchase because it is used as it is manufactured. It can not be stored the way gas is or food can be stored, or fabric or yarn or any thing else. It is produced, the electrons flow through the wires, it flows to where it is being used and is used. Once used, it's gone.

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