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BILLING BATTLES 

Letters to the Editor

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Thanks for your articles on health care, especially "Empowering Patients" (12/15/16). Getting better value from your health care, which was urged in the article, is in my experience a herculean task. During this last year I spent countless hours convincing Sacred Heart Medical Center and its Portland outsourced billing department to remove a $4,679.04 charge for a test the hospital had never done. The ongoing dispute began April 5 and was not resolved until Sept. 16, more than 6 months later. It was not a complicated matter, because the medical records department admitted on May 12 that the hospital did not have a record of the test in their file. I remember calling at that point thinking that surely the issue was now resolved. But no, it still had to go back to the committee for additional review! A review that would take five more months. My doctor was extremely helpful and submitted that the test was never ordered or completed.

On one phone call with billing, I was asked if I had paid out of pocket for the test, suggesting that if I hadn't, I really shouldn't care that much that the charge was bogus. Equally concerning to me was that my health insurer, Group Health, refused to even make note in their payment file that I was disputing the charge. Yet, Group Health is quoted in your article for the proposition that patients should be involved in their own health care.

I care about accurate health care billing, high health care costs, and competent and responsive processes to resolve billing disputes. There is tremendous room for improvement on all these issues with our local providers and insurers. A follow-up article on the number of actual billing disputes that occur locally, and the ridiculous processes used by insurers and providers, could be equally enlightening for your readers.

Mary Lou Johnson

Spokane, Wash.


FLEECED BY THE BILL

In your recent article about health care (12/15/16) you quote Becky Reith from Premera who said, "It's become more necessary for patients to learn how to understand their bills." This is because we are all being regularly fleeced by the insurance companies. In every other advanced country on Earth, patients don't even receive bills because their health care is taken care of through public funding. Health "insurance" is a scam, and the only thing it insures is the excessive salaries of executives, and the dividends to shareholders. If our "system" were to be replaced by a publicly funded single payer plan, we would all be healthier, and richer as well.

Daniel J. Schaffer, MD

Spokane, Wash.

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