On Feeling Like a Collection Agency

10 Oct


Nobody likes to owe money to anyone else, and usually they like paying back that money even less.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a single mom struggling to make ends meet or an insurance company – the bottom line is what matters most.

My insurance company had made a couple of billing screw-ups during my year in Switzerland, where they paid my health care providers for their services rather than reimbursing me the money I’d already paid to the health care providers.  I went to the insurance company office to get the problem straightened out, but they told me I’d have to get reimbursed directly by the health care providers (two radiology offices, a laboratory and the hospital).

One of the radiology offices reimbursed me right away.  All the others dragged their feet a little, though, which meant that I spent two weeks making endless calls and sending endless emails, trying to get my money back before I had to close my bank account.

Finally I got fed up with it.  First I went to the radiology office in person to impress upon them the urgency of the situation.  Not having gained much ground there (the woman who ran the billing department was out on vacation for a month), I decided to go out to the hospital billing department.

As a pure stroke of irony, the hospital billing department was not located on the main hospital campus downtown, but on the sprawling, park-like campus of the psych ward at the edge of the city.  By the time I began to make my way down there, I was feeling like I might end up doing something stupid out of frustration that would get me permanently admitted and unable to leave.

The psych campus is enormous and confusing, full of serpentine paths with an inordinate amount of buildings dotting the landscape, and I wandered around aimlessly for a good half an hour, knocking on the doors of those locked buildings to ask for directions, confronting incredulous wardkeepers who were surprised to see a sane face for once.

I finally managed to find the billing center without going completely crackerjacks.  The head of the billing department promised me that I would be reimbursed within a week’s time.  And as a bonus, I found out that the hospital owed me about twice what I thought.

Still, sometimes you wonder whether the hassle is worth the reward!  It’s no wonder that companies hire collection agencies when customers owe them money.


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