One blessed thing my experience as a lawyer has given me is more confidence and assertiveness in other areas of my life. I'm a very unassertive person. I do not like conflict. I want everyone to like me. Even if I hate them, I still want them to like ME. Historically, I'm easily classified as a pushover for most things. Being a lawyer and advocating for my clients/positions on a regular basis has helped me tremendously in this department.
So, this post is either a story about my triumph over being unassertive... or a how-to guide on releasing work stress.
When Ryan was born, we incurred mega medical bills. Like multi-thousand dollar mega (thanks to a four day C-section-related hospital stay and one pregnancy-induced kidney stone-related stay) . Thankfully our hospital is pretty flexible about repayment plans- or so I thought! So, for the past two years, I've had medical payments automatically deducted from my bank account. Even after two years, we still owe a large amount but at least it's slowly going down...(silver lining, people).
Yesterday, my eyes bulged unattractively out of my head when I opened up an envelope to find a notice from a collection company about my medical bills! The hospital sent the remaining balance of my bill to collections! I almost fainted on the spot. Being transferred from the hospital system to collections would totally destroy my ability to participate in the flexible, interest free payment plan.
I called the hospital during my lunch hour. I might add that I was in the middle of reading an opposing brief full of statements of "fact" that were making my blood boil. So I did not start the conversation in a happy place. When I called, the hospital service lady told me that the bill had been sent to collections so it was out of the hospital's hands, they could do nothing. I argued that I had no notice that my AUTOMATIC deductions weren't being taken out of my account for the past three months.
She insisted that they had called me three times and left three voice mails to tell me that the payment was not processing and that my payments were delinquent. I went ballistic. I had received exactly NO such notice. She told me that her system indicated that I WAS informed and that I must be mistaken. I was PO'ed and demanded to speak to a supervisor.
When I spoke to the supervisor, it was clear that he didn't look at my account and was repeating everything the previous lady had told me. He repeated that there was nothing they could do since the bill was sent to collections and berated me for not checking in with them to make sure my payments were being processed. I went full lawyer on the bastard.
"The POINT of automatic deductions is to not have to worry that you will miss a payment. Is it NOT?!"
"As the bill collector under an automatic payment system, YOU are required to inform me if there is a problem with my account! That's standard practice, is it NOT?!"
"No, I did not receive ANY voicemails. I don't care what the service rep told you the computer says, I received NO notice. Your computer is inaccurate."
"I don't care what the computer says. I'm telling you I received nothing from you. I demand that you send me a copy of my patient bill of rights and/or any documents you have outlining the repayment plan obligations."
"No, I understand what you are saying. However, repeating it five times will not make me agree with you. I'm telling you I received no notice. And this is unacceptable. Fine, I'll call collections now...but I WON'T be happy about it!"
Then I called collections. They told me that the bill was still in pre-collections so they have no control over the bill. Only the medical provider can control the bill at this stage. Oh REALLY?!?! Veins popping out of my neck. So angry, I could strangle a squirrel. Seeing blood.
I called the hospital back, already prepared to be on the offensive and strike boldly at the first sign of argument. This time, a very pleasant lady answered the phone. "Oh yes, you can make a payment on your account. It isn't in collections yet. Oh, according to our computer, we were unable to process your last couple of payments. I apologize, the computer says we never called to notify you. That is our mistake. I'm very sorry."
It was seriously night and day. It was like the archangel of Patient Financial Services flew down from heaven and was whispering sweet, reassuring statements in my ear.
I still don't know what the heck was wrong with the first people I talked to. Perhaps going full lawyer snapped them into shape. Or perhaps going full lawyer was completely unnecessary and all I had to do was kindly ask that they check their records a second time. Either way, I was thankful for the opportunity to release some steam. Sometimes you just really need to yell at someone, and who better to yell at than a couple of incompetent assholes who you will never meet in real life?
Oh yeah, I'm also happy that I'm no longer in threat of going to collections. So that's a bonus too.