Many medical bills fraudulent, reports Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Originally published at: Many medical bills fraudulent, reports Consumer Financial Protection Bureau | Boing Boing


These stories much be so strange to people who live in countries with civilised single-payer universal systems.


The ironic thing is if you make a habit of carrying no debt, then you really don’t give a crap what your credit score is and you can go tell these people to suck it. My credit card company recently increased my credit limit to some absurd amount even though I never use my card and carry no balance.

It’s another penalty of being poor when scammy health providers can hold your financial life hostage to blackmail you into paying for charges you don’t really owe.


You’re lucky to be able to do so. Not everyone can pay their cards off each month. Many Americans are about a paycheck away from losing everything. I’m sure that MORE people would love to be able to do what you and I can do, but for most people, it’s just not possible.


As with the American medical insurance structure, it’s a rigged system, and not one from which most of us can escape even if we’re fiscally privileged and responsible.

We’re talking about consumer credit industry where someone who’s privileged enough to behave like you or me (basically not carrying a balance beyond 30 days, not paying late fees or interest) is termed a “deadbeat” customer.

It’s all shakedowns. Large corporate employers hate the idea of single-payer universal because it eliminates benefits that chain employees to jobs and companies they dislike.


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Something like cancer treatment can break all but the most wealthy households. Even relatively high income, high savings middle class households often end up with their savings wiped out after such disasters.



Not to mention fraudulent over-billing


Further irony being that those customers that they performatively scold (and thus fight legislation that would protect) just happen to be the customers that keep them profitable. They make bupkiss from people who don’t carry a balance. Therefore, they keep increasing wealthier people’s credit limits hoping that person will finally borrow more than they can repay and join the cash-go-in segment of the population.


They are! I’m so happy to have a government-run healthcare plan. My wife’s medication for her ongoing post-op cancer treatment didn’t cost her a cent, not even a dispensing fee. She walked down to the BCCA facility where she had her surgery and picked up a fresh supply of Tamoxifen every 3 months for the whole 5 year recommended prophylaxis.
There’s no “pre-existing conditions” BS for her future healthcare either.


I think I can speak for a lot of us living in the developing country that is the US by saying – I deeply envy your civilized healthcare situation.


This is, of course, nothing new.

When our daughter was born there were complications with my wife and our daughter. Minor stuff but it required a couple extra days in the hospital. We had a pediatrician with hospital privileges who was the doctor of record for her. At one point a doctor I had never seen came in to examine her. I said nope, go away, her pediatrician is already on board and managing her care. This doctor said no problem he’s part of the staff and included with the hospital stay. Don’t touch my daughter, too late, he did the exam.

Three months later we got a separate bill from this doctor for 700 bucks, nope, not paying. Okay, we’ll just turn it over to collections and they did. There was nothing I could do to fight it.

About nine months after my mother in law died a statement from medicare showed up, some doctor billed a couple grand for some sort of equipment. The date of the services was well after her death was recorded. I called medicare, they said I would have to come down to the office and fill out some forms. No, I really don’t, I’ve given you the information you need to investigate. Nothing ever came of it.

On the plus side, I got a call the other other day from the doctor that implanted a loop recorder in my chest about six years ago. The nice woman said insurance ended up paying one of the charges and they were refunding me the money we payed 6 years ago. Okay, whatever, the check showed up 2 days later.

Go figure.


I started receiving collection calls out of the blue, and of course I hung up on them, knowing I pay my bills.
After a few months, I noticed my credit rating had dropped 100 points, so I tracked it to a CT scan I had years ago. I already had paid a $250 co-pay at the time and was told that was the end. But apparently, the hospital decided they didn’t get enough from the insurer and billed me another $220.
When I told them (and it took weeks of calls to find someone who would talk) I hadn’t received any bills, they read off an address that was not mine. After I didn’t pay, they sent it to collections. Collections couldn’t even tell me what the bill was for, so I ignored them, assuming a scam.
Eventually, I had to walk a check directly to the billing department of the hospital (Aria) to guarantee they got it.
When I asked if this would fix my credit, they could not answer. (But it eventually did.)
None of what they did was legal or ethical, based on my insurer.


Why is this a thing there? You should be seeking Medi-Cal for all. It’s much better insurance. No copays, no additional fees, no maximums. (This may be true of all Medicaid programs, but I don’t know for sure so I’m not saying that.)

The two most jarring things to us as Canadians, who have now been here in the US full-time for three years:

  1. The extreme prevalence of “What’s in it for me?” ideology for everything (example: at the start of the pandemic, my family up north was mostly concerned with how horrible they’d feel for accidentally infecting others by not social distancing, vs the “mah freedoms” rhetoric in Texas at the time)
  2. The utter and completely mind-boggling level of shit Americans put up with with healthcare. In choosing providers, we had to do so many things we had never considered before: 1) finding what ambulance and urgent-care facilities were in-network if we ever needed them (this may finally be a non-issue thanks to recently passed federal legislation! yay!), 2) making sure all our healthcare providers, specialists, their facilities they worked in, and lab providers were all in-network, and 3) pre-calling before procedures to find out costs so that if we had copays, we’d understand what that amount was likely to be.

By far the worst part of this whole mess though is this bullshit around no one being able to tell us what insurance will cover and what they won’t for so so so many things until after we get procedures completed and places submit their bills. That is just horrible, and I am so deeply saddened by how much that must be terrifying for folks that aren’t sure they can cover the bills, depending what they are, given how insanely difficult it is to get people to admit to what the charges will be before a procedure.

And good luck calling your insurance provider to try and get an answer. The usual one is “We can’t tell you what you have to pay until we get a bill from the provider”, and asking the provider usually ends with "We can’t tell you what you have to pay until we try and bill the insurer and see what they will cover (which often means “see which codes we can get away with using to maximise our revenue)”.

Like, seriously, why the fuck do Americans put up with this? There is nowhere else on this planet this stupid about medical shit.


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That’s not how credit scores work. Carrying no debt means a lower score.


That’s explicitly illegal here in Australia. The credit card companies are only allowed to increase your limit if you explicitly ask them too. As is the old “if you don’t respond to this letter we’ll raise your limit” trick.


As a Canadian who had emergency treatment in the USA, I concur. Three cheers for excellent travel insurance, and I am happy those professionals got paid. But, every department in the hospital billed separately so I never knew when I was done. Some bills missed the insurance deadline.

Another story: a physician acquaintance broke his arm while in Hawaii. He got on a plane and flew home, choosing delay and pain for the benefits of the system he knew.


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