November 07, 2011

Seeing Red

Monday seems like the perfect day for an installment of my hospital billing saga. You'll remember that the amount we owed went up each month, even though we had not visited the hospital recently. (Knock wood, throw salt.) When I would call and speak with a customer service representative, the woman would tell me to wait and see the following statement.

You'll understand how jittery I felt whenever I opened the new wave of bills. It was like Christmas! In hell. This month, I held my breath, pulled out the crisp white bills, and saw that each of our five statements had gone up by thousands of dollars. One statement that only had $208 remaining shot to more than $6 grand. Of course, this was an error. I never believed the hospital would actually try to collect on the error. But it was an error that had become increasingly time consuming.

The amount paid also did not reflect what we'd actually paid. On one statement, the dollar amount paid was listed as $69. We'd paid $30.

So, I got Laura on the phone. Yes, your favorite and mine. Laura. And I calmly told her we had a problem. "I need a statement that reflects what we actually owe and what we've actually paid," I said. I guess that is a lot to ask.

She looked on her computer and she proceeded to teach me basic math. "Well," she said, "you made two $30 payments—one in August and one in September—and $30 and $30 is close to $69."

I don't know about you, but I am not so okay with best guess math when it comes to my bills.

"But we didn't pay $69," I told her. "No matter how many of the five payments you add together, none of them equals $69."

"Why don't you wait until next month to see if the statements are fixed."

That's when I saw red. Like, actual spots of red. Laura and I were about to break up. "Look," I said, "your automated system calls me every week. There is always a problem. I spend hours of my life on the phone trying to sort this out. And I have been doing this since 2009."

"Ma'am, if you raise your voice at me I will disconnect the call."

I hadn't realized I'd raised. "Do you know what I'm going to do?" I asked.

"I want to remind you that you're being recorded."

"I don't fucking care if I'm being recorded," I said.

"If you use profanities, I will disconnect the call," she said.

"I get up at 4 a.m. to work. And I do not have time to unravel your mess. The next time you send me out a bill that doesn't make sense, I will send you a bill for wasting my time."

"Ma'am," she said.

"If you ma'am me," I told her, "I will disconnect the call."

She ma'am'd again. I hung up.

I have a friend who refers to the type of angry I got as "being in the rage bubble." I'd never been in it before.

It took a nice, slow shot of tequila to make it POP.