For What It’s Worth

Where does the billing amount go?

I don’t know if anyone fainted, had a heart attack, or was momentarily rendered speechless, but I am confident that a variety of expletives filled the air in recent days when former patients at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center in New York received their bills.

One former patient, unemployed doorman Alexis Rodriguez, told Associated Press he almost became ill when he saw his bill. Not surprising since his bill was for $44.8 million.

That’s right! Not $448. Not $4.48. Not some other dollar amount involving the numbers 448 and moving of the decimal. The bill read: $44.8 million.

The AP news story I read didn’t report Mr. Rodriguez’s reaction other than noting that he feared the bill was legit since he had been in the hospital last spring with pneumonia, but it wouldn’t have been overly surprising to have read that he was readmitted for treatment of shock he suffered in reaction to the bill.

Whatever his reaction, he was probably not alone in it. He wasn’t the only former patient receiving a bill for millions of dollars. Patients from the hospital received bills for tens of millions of dollars due to an error.

The news story called it a computer error, but it seems to me that is a misnomer. It was human error using a computer.

The mistake was a simple one. Somehow the invoice number was entered on the bill in the space for the billing amount. Oops! Invoice number becomes billing amount. Surprise.

The billing company is sending out corrected bills.

I can’t help but wonder, though, what some of the reaction was when people opened their bills. Now that I think about it, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to be there to see and hear some of the reaction.

However, another thought occurs to me. Could some of those bills have gone to insurance companies? If so, I would like to have been there for the bill opening. That might have been a show you wouldn’t want to miss.

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