Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Dollop of Displeasure: The Medical Bill

I’m not late with my payment.  So why are these people yelling at me?

As a general rule, I pay bills once a week.  That way I can be assured 99% of the time that the payment will get where it needs to go on time, and that I won’t get a nastygram in the mail from a creditor.   The latter still does happen on occasion due to bills getting lost in the mail.   But it’s rare.

As I was going through the joyous stack of little window envelopes this weekend, one bill really stood out.  It was from Labcorp, which does bloodwork and other lab testing.  Next to the address window, in big, red, all-cap letters, were the words, “HEALTHCARE INVOICE.”  And beneath that were the words, in big, bold, black all-cap letters, “OPEN IMMEDIATELY.”

I thought, what the hell?  “OPEN IMMEDIATELY?”  Really?  What, am I late with a payment?  I peeked through the blinds to see whether there were any dark sedans parked nearby.   Is someone about to claim one of my organs in payment?  Or are these people just of the belief that their bill is more important than any other in the stack—so important that it merits attention RIGHT THIS DAMNED MINUTE?

Putting a communication in all caps is the modern day equivalent of raising your voice.   And at this point I was wondering what I had done to merit being yelled at. 

I then reviewed my payments in my mind.  Nope, I’ve paid every bill I received from these and several other medical vendors promptly upon receipt—and believe me, there have been a bunch.  Bills are still coming in from medical treatments I received six months ago during my crisis with kidney cancer.  But I’ve paid them all.

And at this point, I started to get angry.  I’ve never received a bill trumpeting this kind of demand on the envelope from any company at any time for any reason—not even when a bill has been past due. 

Admittedly, of all the things on planet Earth to get worked up about, a bill that screams “HEALTH INVOICE OPEN IMMEDIATELY” would not seem to merit placement anywhere near the top of the list.   But on second thought, it damned well does.   This little display of random, impersonal rudeness may be small, but taken in the context of the zillions of other little slaps we all receive every day that collectively remind us of how small, voiceless and unimportant we all are in the scheme of things, it’s intolerable.  Each of us deserves more respect than that.

And add to that, this:  the outside of the envelope is public.  What business is it of anyone else’s that I’m receiving a bill for a medical service—especially a bill that loudly, and publicly, demands immediate attention?  Answer:  absolutely none.

I opened the bill this morning live on my PowerTalk 1210 radio show.   The bill is not past due.  Care to guess the date of the service for which I’m being invoiced?  Or the huge amount they’re demanding that I drop everything right this moment and pay?  You can hear the clip for yourself below; it’s about two minutes in length.  Toward the end, I make a rather pointed suggestion to the company.

In the immortal words of Howard Beale—well, never mind.  Look it up.  

I ain’t done yet.   Stay tuned.  This is going to be fun.


©2014 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

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