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Hospital writes off charge as prescription to ease stress

I hope you can help me. I went to Humana Hospital for some tests in December 1989. The tests were billed to Medicare, and the balance was paid by Old Southern Life Insurance Co.

I heard nothing from the hospital until August of this year when they sent me a bill for $81. I called the hospital and spent 20 minutes explaining that my account had been paid in full. They said to ignore the bill. I got another bill in September, which I returned with a full explanation, but now, in today's mail, there is another statement and a threat to send my account to a collection agency.

How can they take a paid account and six months later start billing me again? I always have paid my bills and don't want my credit ruined.

Can you do something to straighten out this matter? I am disabled and have a disease made worse by stress, and stress is exactly what this hospital is putting me through.

Enid R. Brigman

Response: According to Humana, the $81 was a late charge for a thyroid auto-antibodies test which was added to your account after Medicare originally was billed. The late charge was sent to Medicare twice but has not yet been paid.

The hospital's computer system is designed to allow a certain amount of time to lapse after Medicare or an insurance company has been billed before sending a balance due statement to a patient. That's why you did not receive statements reflecting the $81 balance until August.

In order to avoid causing you further stress, the hospital has written off the $81. Your account now has a zero balance and you have Humana's apologies.

Rubles cannot be exchanged

What is the rate of exchange right now for Russian rubles?

A.D.

Response: At present there is none. Rubles cannot be converted into dollars, pounds, marks or most any other international currency.

The reason is that the Soviet Union decided in 1945 not to join the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the international organization which, among other things, deals with fixing the exchange rate system in the world. The Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc nations did not join because they saw the IMF as a means of promoting capitalism.

Several former Eastern Bloc countries, including Poland and Hungary, since have joined. Even China joined a few years ago, and experts predict that the Soviets will be join the IMF within two years.

Subscription to be refunded

I mailed a $32 renewal check to Ms. magazine last December. When I stopped receiving magazines I thought it was because my check was late, but I called a toll-free number and learned that production had been suspended. They told me I would get a refund.

As of August, there still was no refund. They've had my $32 for more than eight months. I can't afford that!

Sondra Bear-Rosen

Response: Ms. magazine has undergone some changes. Due largely to conflicts with advertisers (who, for example, wanted the magazine to run beauty columns rather than stories about cancer-causing chemicals in cosmetics) Ms. suspended publication in October 1989.

But, apparently yielding to pressure from staff and readers, the new owner has agreed to reissue the magazine as a journal free of advertising and give the editorial staff complete control over content.

We received no response to our written inquiry about your refund, so we called Ms. They could not locate your subscription in their computer but they took the information from us and said you will get your $32 refund in four to six weeks.

The new Ms. will sell for $4.50 at the newsstand or $40 for six bimonthly issues.

Reaction

We just received word from the Auto Owners Insurance company that they had made a mistake and that our account has been credited as paid in full.

Thank you for your efforts.

Mary Niehoff

You did me a lot of good because I got a check today for $57.94 from the Craft Basket. Thank you for helping me.

Mary Wilson

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, c/o the City Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, to leave a recorded request for Action. Calls will be accepted anytime except between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, while messages are being transcribed.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or on our recorder; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Upon request, names will not be published.

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