Promoters of a Randalls Island electronic music festival — unplugged by the city last year after two drug deaths — are pressing top mayoral aides for a permit to stage the event again. A couple of weeks after the surgery we started to receive mail from J’s insurance company’s claims department. We didn’t know what to make of it all yet, and out of sheer desperation J got on the phone to the billing department of the hospital to ask them if he was being charged extra for a private hospital room, and they said no. We ordered copies of J’s itemized hospital bill, and that took three tries for the billing department to get right. The city put in a bench and people along the bike trail enjoy the beautiful area this man created.
She phoned a friend of hers who is the leading surgeon of another major hospital and he told her that when she gets her bill, she should call the billing department of the hospital and ask them how much Medicare would pay for each item. When it came to the bill, the only thing that was clear was that the billing department wasn’t interested in making anything easy for us. Trying to make sense of that bill, which is written in a code more difficult to read than Latin, was a new challenge in itself.
I learned, when negotiating down our bill, we should ask the billing department what Medicare would pay for the same procedure, and explain to them that we don’t feel we should have to pay more than other patients for the same procedure. In the New York Times’ awesome article, Bargaining Down Medical Bills there is the actual website Medicare hospital compare where you can find out what Medicare pays for a specific surgery at a specific hospital.
The policy title is: Patient Accounts, Financial Assistance, including Charity Care, Hospital Services.” This now became our immediate priority, before we would talk with the billing department about shaving chunks off of the bills (which we hadn’t received any more of yet). We sent off the required information to the billing department and waited with fingers and toes crossed.
In the hardship letter I recalled the fact that J had asked for the cheapest room, and he had asked how much the hospital charges for a hip revision, and for room and board for one night, while the woman in the financial department wouldn’t tell him. Well, I mentioned earlier that the woman in the financial department said, We’ll work with you.” When it comes to the outcome of our hospital bills, better words have not been spoken. This is not something that the billing department or anyone else told us. We knew about the six-month clause because I read every single word of everything I came across during that period.