How I Did It
A routine visit to the doctor led to a $1,600 bill from my health clinic. But I fought back--and won.
(MONEY Magazine) – ANGELA HAASL, 26, MINNEAPOLIS
"In April 2004, I visited my clinic for an annual physical. My doctor performed some bloodwork that she said was routine. A month later, I received a bill for that bloodwork. It was going to cost me $1,600. Furious, I called the clinic that had run the tests, and I discovered the root of my problem: 16 tests had been coded as "extra work," which the insurance company refused to pay for. They should have been coded as part of the exam, which would have fallen under my insurance coverage. Ultimately, my doctor agreed to recode the tests. Of course, it wasn't that simple.
I made weekly calls to the clinic's financial office to check on my bill's progress. The charges were still miscoded. They told me to be patient. I tried calling the clinic's help line. I got the same runaround. Maybe if I didn't have a job and could spend hours on the phone, I could have eventually badgered them into fixing my bill. As it was, I spent six months and made more than a dozen phone calls trying, and I had nothing to show for it. Nothing except a $1,600 bill that wasn't going away.
I realized I needed help. I found out about an insurance help line run by the office of one of my senators, and they paired me with a caseworker. That did it. Whenever I had called the clinic, I felt as if I had no voice, but my caseworker was calling from a senator's office, which got their attention. Someone finally recoded the bloodwork, and my insurer covered most of the bill. The clinic kicked in some because it had taken so long to work out the problem. I paid only my standard $300 deductible. When you feel you are being treated unfairly, fighting solo is not always enough. In my case, recognizing that I needed help and getting the right kind made all the difference."