Remember back in July when I took my ride down the Kaibab plateau in the back of an ambulance. That little trip has been quite expensive. The bills started pouring in almost as soon as I got home, and then I had to go to Flagstaff to visit a cardiologist. I jokingly asked him to skip the stress test and just send me a bill, which he didn’t think was very funny.
This is what the total looks like right now, AFTER I have been paying on them since August: $7,648!
Anyway, in August when I got the bills from Northern Arizona Healthcare (NAH), I called them and tried to make payment arrangements. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who could come up with more than $8,000 out of pocket right away to pay all those bills. But, I WANT to pay them, in installments.
When I called the first week of August and tried to make the payment arrangements, I was told to apply for Arizona Health Care Cost Containment Services (AHCCCS) and when I got my denial letter from them, to fill out a financial aid form and send it in to NAH along with copies of my 2009 tax returns, 3 months of paycheck stubs, and 3 months of my bank account statements. So, I dutifully filled out the application for AHCCCS on August 8, and mailed it in.
On October 1, I still had not heard anything back from AHCCCS, so I called them. The telephone number that is printed on the application is not the correct number. TWO HOURS waiting on hold and 5 different telephone numbers later, I finally reached someone who was able to give me my case number. She told me that they had not yet made a decision on my application, and that they had until October 8 to make that decision. She told me I would receive a letter advising me of that decision within a week after they decided.
On October 16, my last day on the job at the North Rim, I had to surrender my key to my mailbox when I closed out my employment. We didn’t leave there until October 23, and I checked the mail at the administrative office every day during that time. No letter arrived for me from AHCCCS.
Yesterday, November 10, I called AHCCCS again. I was on hold again for almost an hour. When the case worker finally came online, I asked if they had mailed out my denial letter yet. She advised me that they had mailed it on October 15 to my address at the North Rim. I told her that I never received it, and asked if she could send me a copy to my new address in Alabama. She said, “we don’t send out a second copy because it costs us money to do that.” I offered to send some money so they could send me the letter I needed, but she actually LAUGHED at that offer. I was livid! I had to hang up before I used some very nasty language that I knew I would regret later.
I feel like I am in a bad Twilight Zone episode. All I want to do is make payment arrangements on these medical bills, so I can pay them in installments without worrying about being turned over to a collection agency. I surprised that they haven’t done that already.
Today, I called NAH again, and explained the situation to the lady there, and she told me to write a letter advising them why I can not include my denial letter from AHCCCS with my application for financial aid.
Why do these things have to be so hard? What if I was an elderly person, or someone with not much education? What if I was someone for whom all this would just be too much so that they would just give up? I can tell you that I am feeling like I am almost ready to give up on this right now. And the medical industry wonders why people just walk away without paying. Sometimes it might just be because they make it too hard.
And you know that lady at AHCCCS, who told me it cost them money to send out a second denial letter? Well, why did I have to fill out that application in the first place. I KNEW I didn’t qualify for Medicaid, because I make too much money. It would seem to me that if medical facilities require you to apply for Medicaid and be denied before they will even talk to you about payment arrangements, then all those extra applications are costing the state more money than a second denial letter. And how come they couldn’t email me my denial letter? Just how much would it cost to do that, after I had already spent twenty minutes on the phone with the caseworker. In the time it took her to ask her supervisor if she could send me a second denial letter, she could have printed the letter or emailed it. AND she would have left a good impression of the system with her customer. Instead, SHE LAUGHED.