GLENS FALLS — Glens Falls Hospital President and CEO Dianne Shugrue has described the hospital’s billing problems as “comprehensively addressed and resolved.”
But for patients, it is still an ongoing crisis.
Patients have been contacted by collections companies, chasing them for money that their insurance refused to pay because the bills sent out were wrong.
One patient was contacted by a loan company that offered to pay her bill in exchange for monthly payments. It’s been a year and she is still paying on a bill her insurance denied for lack of timeliness. She did not realize that if her insurance refused it for lack of timeliness, she was not responsible for it.
Others are dealing with bills from 2016 that they could have paid with their FSA accounts — but the money for 2016 is long gone. FSA funds can be used until March 15 of the following year to pay medical bills that come in late, but after that, any money not used is forfeited.
In addition, FSA funds for this calendar year can’t be used to pay for bills from a previous calendar year.
That means that bills received now cannot be paid with the pre-tax medical savings accounts used by many people.
For others, it’s just a bureaucratic nightmare.
Tami Williams has a $10,000 bill in collections because her insurance denied a claim from the hospital. The problem: the Dec. 15, 2017 bills did not have the code showing the treatment was authorized. Originally, there were three bills for various services, and the hospital eventually added the authorization code to one bill and got paid. The other two are in collections.
“This is a nightmare for me as nobody at the hospital wants to fix this mess,” Williams said. “My insurance company says all they need to do is send it in with the authorization code. Apparently nobody at the hospital can find the authorization codes.”
Jill Tefft of Greenwich also recently got a letter from a collections company, for routine bloodwork on Dec. 20, 2016. The cost: $49.63.
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“I didn’t get a bill. I got this,” she said.
She called the hospital to ask about it, and was told that the claim was still “pending” with insurance.
“I said, ‘So why are you sending it to collections if it’s still pending with insurance?’” she said. “She said to call back in a week.”
The amount of money isn’t a problem, but the Tefft family has already hit its deductible for the year. She’s not happy about having to pay more, especially when she was slapped with a collections letter instead of a bill.
The bills haven’t been easy either. Back in 2017, just after that bloodwork, Tefft’s husband needed brain surgery. Tefft had to juggle a 15-month-old baby, bills from three different medical centers and worker compensation claims. She tracked each bill carefully, so she noticed when she got the same Glens Falls Hospital bill again and again.
“It got confusing. I was getting one after another,” she said.
She called and they acknowledged she had paid the bill.
“Then the next week I would get it again,” she said.
Because of her tracking system, she is certain she never accidentally paid it twice. But she wonders about other people.
“They might just pay it,” she said. “Or if they get a collections letter, they might just quickly write a check.”
The hospital has now set up a special hotline for billing problems. Experienced hospital staff will answer the line at 518-926-1320 every weekday, starting at 9 a.m.