Billing and Bullshit

I’m not only paying bills today, but I’m wading through the morass known as “medical billing.” I completely lost focus when I came across this charge:

“Insertion of needle into vein for collection of blood sample. $22.00.”

Now, after you pick yourself up off the floor and change your pants, this ridiculousness doesn’t only apply to medical billing. I found another gem, from the propane company:

“Service Labor, 1 HR, $53.99

“HazMat Fee, $10.00

“Fuel Recovery Fee, $5.02

“Service Dispatch Charge, $19.99”

That’s a total of $89.99 for the guy to come out and change a hose from an old barbeque grill to a new one. It cost $20 for them to give the guy our address, $5 for his gas, and $54 for 20 minutes of work. I guess the $10 was in case he blew himself to kingdom come . . . I really have no idea.

This isn’t the first time, or likely the last, that we, and everyone else, has been faced with goofy charges. When we owned our bookstore in St. Louis, our sewer bill included a “hazardous waste” charge simply because we had a business account. Because, I guess, they assumed we regularly flushed toxic books . . .

What happened to the general business principle of the “cost of doing business?” Maybe it started with those as-seen-on-TV products, the ones that not only charge for the product and shipping, but this supposed charge of “handling.” Like when they tell you they’ll send a second identical product for “only” shipping and handling—the product is probably only worth that handling charge, which, by the way, means someone takes it off a shelf and puts it in a box.

Let’s say a handling charge is, oh, $5.00. Let’s further assume someone can pull the product, box it, tape it, slap the label on it, and stick it on a truck in five minutes—and that’s being generous. Do you really think the worker is being paid $60 per hour? More like $10. That’s $50 going in the company’s pockets, every hour, per employee.

Go back to the “insertion of needle.” We all know that sometimes this takes a few minutes, which seems like hours when you’re the one getting stuck with that needle. But how many needles can a med tech stick in a person in an hour? Five? Let’s use five. That tech might earn $15 per hour—not $132, which is how the math works on that example. The hospital gets the rest. That comes to $117 per hour per tech that’s collected by the medical facility.

Sure seems to me that this fee should be part of the cost of the hospital doing business, just like that “handling” charge.

Look at the propane company—who gets that “dispatch charge?” We’re not talking life and death, a 911 call, we’re talking someone who answers phones and relays the information to a driver. Feel free to tear apart their other charges . . .

I remember back when I worked for Domino’s Pizza. Customers ordered pizzas, drivers delivered them—30 minutes or less or it was free—and that was it. Drivers worked hourly and for tips, and bought their own gas and usually used their own cars. Today, there’s a fuel charge or a delivery charge.

Owning a publishing house, I can attest to additional handling charges when ordering books. Here’s an example: I purchase books wholesale, which means about $5 each; the printer already makes about $2.50 on each one, yet they charge me to box them and ship them, on top of that. Any change in text or cover also costs me, as well as an annual fee to “list” books on different sites. And that last part, they usually screw up . . .

I’ve owned businesses. I didn’t charge anyone for “cost of cleaning supplies,” because that was part of MY cost; I didn’t have a separate fee for “driving to customer’s home” or for “scheduling” or any other random, mundane bullshit.

I didn’t charge for “ringing up purchase at register” or “picking up and re-shelving books that customers left on chairs.” Or even “wiping fingerprints off front door.” These things, like all the above examples, are PART OF THE JOB OR THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS!

And, since medical stuff pisses me off the most—BJC sent a bill for “hospital stay,” five figures’ worth, with zero explanation of any of the charges, and expected me to just pay it, no questions. No, thankyouverymuch—here are some more fun fees:

$86 for “blood glucose test performed by handheld instrument” That’s the same thing my husband does several times a week at the kitchen table. Far from a specialized procedure.

$43 for the EXACT SAME THING as the one above.

$12 for “insertion of needle into vein, etc.” I wonder why there’s a difference . . . did the $22 charge include multiple attempts? Special needle? WTH??

And yet, the government thinks having health insurance is of prime importance—how about taking a close look at medical billing? Or so-called HazMat fees, or anything else that is lining someone’s pockets at the expense of the American people?




This entry was posted in Op-Ed.

4 comments on “Billing and Bullshit

  1. Dave Crowley says:

    One doc told me that medical billing was more complicated than medicine itself


  2. Dave Crowley says:

    One doc told me that medical billing was more complicated than medicine itself


  3. Laura Cichon says:

    Most people (unless they direct pay the hospital) don’t look at their bill or the details of the charges. Years ago, got the bill from hospital awaiting submission to insurance. While in the ER, nurse used half bottle of saline wash (already opened) on my daughter’s dog bite. Then, she opened a new bottle and used half of that. That’s ONE whole bottle, correct? Well I know I’m not a mathematical genius but when I saw the bill that was charging me for TWO bottles, I called the billing department. After I explained to her what I had witnessed in the ER she was happy to make the adjustment however she did say it was running through my insurance so what did it matter?!

    This was in 1992.

    If only more folks called them out on bogus charges!


  4. That’s ridiculous! But that’s how it works – anything to make a buck.

    I was taught early on to check the bill. When I had my daughter, it showed they’d given me 3 Advil capsules. I called them on that – and then my SIL told me, yes, they had. I’d completely forgotten, lol!

    We got the first bill from the hospital and it just said “observation services,” which was also a misnomer – it was Dennis’ three days there for the new stents! Showed a total, and an insurance payment, and our balance. Told them I wasn’t paying a thing until I received an itemized bill – which I never got, simply the same bill each month. I’m going through the EOBs now.


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