Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ugh... Just Ugh...

I am angry right now... or hurt... or maybe both I guess, back and forth in surges that have been slamming against me since I got a letter this afternoon informing me that I owed a collections agency a little under a thousand dollars.

The letter was from Florida and had been forwarded to our new address.

The knot didn't form in my stomach right away.  It waited until I saw the date and then dropped into my stomach like a stone.

August 15th, 2011.  The Feast of the Assumption.  Paul's first day of law school.  The day I, with shaking hands, performed a conditional baptism on our just born child, tears running down my face, alone in a hospital room since we didn't yet know anyone and someone had to be home with the girls.

It was easily the worst moment of my life... the worst day of my life... and the hospital staff... well... it was a nightmare.  I would spend weeks... months... going over that day in my head.  I would shake and feel sick every single time we drove by Naples Community Hospital.  And the bills started to come in and I just couldn't believe it.  I had to pay for that?  For being treated horribly during the most vulnerable moment of my entire life.  I couldn't sleep.  And I hardly had the energy to fight, since what we didn't know yet was that "debris" had been retained.  At the time I knew that the illness that would follow for three months (when a NaPro doctor discovered what everyone else had missed when she gave a third opinion) wasn't really "just in my head," but the medical opinions I'd receive for those twelve weeks was basically that it was all psychological. 

It would be three months before the D&C.  It would be longer still before I'd have the strength to write up what happened, in the form of a 20 page letter and send it to the hospital.  That day the hospital called me.  My bills were forgiven (at least the thousand dollars I hadn't already scrimped together to pay...).   A two page letter of apology followed.

I thought that it was over.  Finally over.

And then the letter arrived today from a collections agency.  A certain doctor is trying to collect on his bill.  What?  was my first thought.  I was never even seen by a doctor.  All the "doctors were too busy" to come down to see me.  I delivered the baby by myself in a little porto-toilet after my cries for help were ignored by the staff I could see standing just outside my little curtain flap talking.

Paul spent an hour on the phone with the collections agency today after trying for a long, long time to get through to someone at the hospital.  They said that the bill is from the doctor so the hospital can't forgive it.

I stood in the kitchen, sick to my stomach, and sewed two more quilts while Paul was on the phone.  My back and feet had been aching from sewing for so long, but with my thoughts racing I could hardly feel them.

Somewhere in those boxes downstairs, safely tucked away, is that letter of apology.  I don't need to waste work time digging through the basement searching for them, this week of all weeks, but it looks like that's what I'll be doing.

I'm trying really hard not to be angry or stressed about this right now (I'm pretty much failing at that).  I can't help but think: What, you couldn't control your staff?  They didn't act professionally when I was at the hospital.  And now you can't be responsible enough to do what you actually said you were going to do and make the bills go away and all this comes up again?

I hope this is an easy fix... But dealing with collections agencies are always stressful... and bringing up all of this again... I'm surprised at how painful the memories of what went on in that hospital still are.


  1. So sorry that you are having to relive all of this right now!

    I would wager that a copy of the letter of apology plus a strongly worded letter from your third-year law student husband will go a long way towards settling this once and for all. Prayers being said!


  2. Oh Cam. I am so very sorry. This made me feel sick just reading it. Praying for you.

  3. That is just terrible. I hope that you find that letter, and I'm praying that it wasn't in one of the boxes that got soaked when your basement flooded. Praying for you.

  4. I am so sorry, Cam. What a rotten situation.
    Was the bill just recently sent to collection? If it hasn't been in collections long then the good news is that you have a long time to deal with this. I know it doesn't help the origins of the bad feelings but it may make it less stressful if you know that you have time to work it out. We have dealt with collections agencies a few times when we have had lengthy disputes with providers or just have had trouble scraping the funds together. They don't care about the details, they were just hired to collect and they can't make it go away. But they will work with you for a loooong time (even if they will bug the heck out of you periodically). Be up front about the situation and tell them you are working on it on your end and they will likely be nice and helpful in return.

    Also, the doctors keep their own records and submit their own bills if they have a practice and the hospital has no control over that. If you think this guy never saw you, then call his office asap and demand the detailed records from that day. We were once charged by an audiologist who never saw our baby even though they had it in their records. I challenged them to pull up the test results and they could not. The charges were reversed immediately. But the hospital records reflected neither side, just the *scheduled* visit when the technician was signed in to the maternity ward.

    Sorry to prattle on... just hoping some of our experience might help in some way. Prayers coming your way.

  5. The thing that worries me is that when we started going through the records we found that one doctor had actually perjured himself and gone back like a week later and said that he'd seen me. The dates didn't match, and we knew I hadn't been seen by him, but he'd actually falsified it in the records when we first began to dispute the payments... although I think he falsified it on the 9th, not the 15th, which I hope might help.

  6. You went to the ER and were NEVER seen by a physician - not even for two minutes? If that's the case
    a) shame on them and
    b) you can't possibly owe for an exam that didn't happen

    A strongly worded letter from a law student might not be enough, but surely Paul knows some actual attorneys that might be willing to help him out?

    It's true that the hospital has no control over whether or not the doctors bill. They are independent contractors. We've dealt with that before, and while the hospital will work on payment plans, the physicians expect to be paid promptly. You can file a complaint with the hospital that you think the doctor provided substandard care, or lied, but ultimately they don't get to say whether or not he chooses to send a bill to you.

    And although the circumstances of the story are very, very sad - many ER stories are very sad and the doctors still bill. I would just go the route of "He didn't examine me, I'm not paying for an examination." Ask for a itemized bill from his end.

    Best of luck navigating this!


  7. Cam, ask Paul to look up the relevant consumer protection statute, or contact a legal aid type for help. You most likely have the right to demand that the collections agency provide you all of the original documentation. They often don't have it, and can't collect on the bill without it. Still a pain to deal with, and I'm sorry you're going through this.

  8. Hi Kim,

    Yeah, no doctor ever even came in the door. Not even for a second. I was repeatedly told that they were all too busy to see me.

    The hospital basically said that they were independent contractors but that the bills would be eliminated... so we'll see what happens next.

    It does look like Paul's going to be getting hands on practice with this.

  9. The other thing is I do think it's less that the story was sad, and more the fact that the hospitals staff was purposefully hurtful and negligent. It would have been sad if even if they'd done a good job. It was a nightmare because they went out of their way to do a horrid job. And that's the main reason I don't want them to get a cent from us.

  10. :( so sorry that this happened! when i went to L&D at night, i was never seen by a doctor either - just the nurses who did stuff - and i was also billed by the doctor. I suppose the way it works is that the nurse phones the doctor and gives them the story and gets orders.. then the doc gets to make money off that! having worked in a hospital though, our group ALWAYS saw and "laid hands" and talked to patinets if we were going to bill! not sure how legal it is for docs to bill for patients theyve never seen. maybe your husband would know more about that side of the law?

  11. You have a lot of rights with regard to collections. Just because they say you owe doesn't mean that you do. The burden of proof is on them.

    As for spending time this week looking for that letter, don't bother. They waited this long to contact you, they can wait a few more weeks. Finish the important, immediate stuff for the craft sale.

    Again because I can't tell if it worked before. Sorry.

  12. Ugh, I am so sorry! These are the times when it's good to be married to a lawyer-in-training who can take on the challenge of the fight : ) Our prayers are with you!

  13. When Collin had to go to the ER for a kidney stone in 2010, he was never seen by a doctor either, just nurses and (eventually) a P.A. It took hours for him just to get pain medication, and the only reason he finally got it was because he was in so much pain that his agonized groaning was disturbing others. (A nurse actually rebuked him for being too loud while he was writhing in pain. I wanted to smack her.)

    You've gotten good advice already, but I second what was said above - demand all documentation from the collections agency and don't bother finding the letter until after the show. This B.S. can wait.

  14. I am so very sorry! A horrible situation to be sure! I am lifting you all up in prayer that God will guide your hearts and minds to do what is right.

    One consolation is that no medical deficiency can be applied to a credit score. If you are concerned about a rating, they cannot use this.

    Do get a liscenced attorney to look at it. Paul doesn't need that on his plate right now.

  15. IMO you should find an attorney board certified in whatever specialty it is that goes after hospitals and doctors for malpractice.

    Both the hospital AND that doctor need to be sued. This is will cause the insurance companies to be very very angry with them and THAT might fuel real change.

    I feel so bad for you having all that sorrow brought back up.

    May the good God bring every person involved in this harm to you to full and total repentance.

  16. I am so sorry to hear about this!

    We went though something very similar - except we never got any collections letter. We only found out when I pulled my husband's credit report and found there was a collection on it for $200 - which was ruining his credit and that we never knew about. For an open heart surgery, a $200 bill was nothing and of course we would have paid it if we even knew about it!

    If this has already hit your credit report there are a lot of resources on the internet to help fight it and get it off your report after you have finished dealing with the hospital. After a lot of letters and keeping a file of everything, we were able to get it off but it was an absolute headache. We paid the bill too - by paying the doctor directly and then we were able to fight with the agency that way. We weren't giving them a cent. Once this is all dealt with, pull a copy of your credit report and see how you go. I feel for you and having to live though everything again is horrific. Love and prayers to you all.


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