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Paperwork snarls hospital payment

My doctor ordered a test that was performed at Morton Plant Mease hospital last November. It was covered under my Cigna health plan.

I received a statement in January saying that the bill had not been paid but that it had been forwarded to my insurance company for payment. I thought no more about it.

In February I received another statement, so I called Cigna. They told me that the hospital had not filled out the correct paperwork so they were not going to pay it. They said I didn't have to pay it either.

I received yet another statement in March from the hospital saying it would like the money from me since it had not received payment from my insurance. Just because someone didn't fill out the right paperwork they can hardly expect me to pay for their mistakes. Shirley Costello

Response: Bruce Hallowell, director of patient accounting and admitting at Morton Plant Mease, apologizes for the frustration they have caused you over the test that was billed to Cigna. According to his letter, the billing for hospital services is a highly regulated process for hospitals. It also can be very confusing for customers.

The standard accepted billing for all third parties is a UB92, a government-mandated billing form. This was sent to Cigna twice, the first time electronically with verified receipt of claim, the second time on paper. Hallowell writes that this is the only billing form that Cigna will accept.

He could not find any evidence that you were sent a letter or statement asking for payment. It is the hospital policy to keep patients informed of the status of their accounts with the hospital, he writes. They are trying to collect the amount due from Cigna and will continue to do so.

He promises that they will do everything in their power to get Cigna to pay for your services and will appreciate any help you can give them. You can call and talk to him about your account at 734-6420.

We did notice that your March statement said that your insurance company had not paid and that, if payment were not received, the balance might become your responsibility.

You might want to call Hallowell to make certain that the insurance information, the spelling of your name and any other pertinent information is correct.

Let us know if this problem is not resolved.

Cancellation problems with travel office

Last April we signed up for a tour package for $498 that was offered by Design Travel in Santa Rosa, Calif. The next day we changed our minds and called the company to cancel. We were advised to return the materials. We did. Our April credit card statement included the tour charge. We paid the balance minus the $498. We then left the country for two months.

Upon our return, we discovered that a credit had never been posted to our credit card account. In addition, because the charge had carried over, we had been charged interest as well as a late fee. This upset us so we paid off the new balance of $529.06.

We have contacted Design Travel many times. Their answer is always that their computer shows that a credit has been issued.

We have been more than patient with them. Can you help? Joseph and Eva Just

Response: We regret that we are not able to help you. Your complaint joins three others we have received this year.

One was from Fern Milleman, who drove from New Port Richey to Fort Lauderdale to discover that Design Travel had not paid for a room at the Ramada Inn that was a part of her package. She has not been able to get a refund either.

Design Travel is one of four companies selling vacation travel packages that is being investigated by Agricultural Commissioner Bob Crawford for violating Florida travel sales laws. Many of the complaints against Design Travel concern refund requests that have not been honored.

Design Travel has a number of offices in Florida, including Altamonte Springs, the location most of our complainants dealt with.

Reaction

On Feb. 21 I received notice that you were still working on my complaint with Zenith Video Tech Corp. That same day, I received a phone call from the TV store saying Zenith had authorized them to replace my set with a new one.

I feel certain that, without the help of Action, the Zenith people would have continued to ignore me. I cannot thank you enough. Jane Roth

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, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or voice mail; 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. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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