This is the most absurd story ever. I can't even believe this happened to me, it's so crazy.
I had been taking my kids to the same pediatrician's office for over 14 years. And before that, I was a patient in the practice when I was a child. But all those years of loyalty didn't mean anything in the end.
In the beginning, the practice was started by an amazing man and his loyal nurse in his basement, and it grew and grew and grew. No matter how big the practice got, this doctor kept doing things for the good of the kids; coming in on weekends by himself to see sicks kids, doing stitches in the office to save parents a wait in the ER, never treating parents like they were crazy or over-reacting, and he was one of those doctors who volunteered every summer to go give vaccines in Africa. And sadly, he was killed by a drunk driver one night on his was to the hospital to see a newborn baby patient. After all the mourning, you could tell staff and parents started to worry that the practice was going to change. For the most part everything stayed pretty much the same for years, with the exception of a whole crop of new nurses replacing the older ones. But that was easy to explain away as the older ones retiring. I had been on a first name basis with the front office staff, and they were still as happy and pleasant as always, with no indication that anything was coming down the pike. And one of them I am fairly certain would have given me a heads up had she known. But all of a sudden at the beginning of this year things changed.
For many years I had my husband's insurance, which sucked. It was a high deductible plan that only covered well visits. So every time they were sick, I would always end up with most of the bill. During one particularly bad year I racked up a pretty decent bill. (At any one time over all the years my bill never went above $1000.) When one of the billing girls noticed how I always had a bill, she suggested putting me on a payment plan with a small monthly amount, so that I was always paying whether I had been seen that month or not to keep up with it. And it would keep me from getting notices and fees if I did have a balance. So it was set up like that for years and years. And it pretty much worked. If I knew I owed them more than my payment, I sent larger chunks of money when I had it. At the beginning of this year I owed $600-something, I don't remember the exact amount. Some of the newborn care visits were considered follow-ups not well child visits, so I got hit with more bills than I thought I would. (I recently took my employers insurance. And while it costs more to have out of my paycheck, the coverage is a million times better. But I just became benefited, so it wasn't an option to have until now.)
So, after my baby's one year visit in which he got shots and was screaming his head off, and I am trying to wrangle him, the diaper bag, my purse, and both of our heavy winter coats, I get told on my way out the door billing needed to talk to me. And they proceed to walk me down a maze of hallways to a crowded billing office. Where some person I have never seen before starts bombarding me with questions about how I am going to pay my account off. As if I am some how supposed to magically produce my checkbook and write a check. Not only were we just standing in the middle of an office that was completely not private, I still had my arms full, with no offer to help me with anything or a chair to sit in, nothing. And my baby is still crying. I said that I wasn't prepared to have this discussion today, that I did expect a tax refund and I could make a payment, but could she call me the next day so we could discuss things. I left there a little irritated and annoyed about how that situation just happened, and even more confused about why all of a sudden after all these years my payment plan wasn't good enough. Usually when policies change, a written letter or a posted notice lets you know what is going on.
I don't hear from billing lady for several days. When she does call me she calls my cell phone, which is listed only as my emergency contact #, and one I almost never use for business calls. Because if I am not at home I am most likely not in a place where I can have a business conversation, nor would I have appropriate documents with me, in this case my finance/budget folder. When this call came in I was actually in the car repair shop because my car decided to crap out on me. Because I know it is the billing office, I answer and explain where I am and that I am not somewhere that I can discuss this. That I spent the day after my appointment home waiting on a call that never came. She agrees to call me back at home later in the week. I never do receive a call from her, but rather get a letter outlining a ridiculous payment plan, saying "per our conversation...agreed upon amount..." when none of that was ever talked about and agreed upon. Now I am just pissed off (and newly pregnant and highly emotional, but I didn't know that I was just yet.) I really couldn't believe that after all the years I had been in the practice, this person I had never dealt with before was not even trying to work with me. I did not even know at this point that there was some sort of policy change or that my payment plan was null and void.
So I leave a voicemail asking someone to call me to discuss things, that I was very upset how all of this had gone down thus far, that I didn't understand exactly why this was happening the way it was happening, ect ect. Eventually the same girl calls me back, insisting that I agreed upon this amount, putting words into my mouth that I never once said. She still never explains about any policy change and insists that I have to pay what she has said. I felt that as a long time family in the practice they should be able to work with me a little more. To me, it felt like the principle of it. We were also dumping all our extra money into making our credit perfect and saving for a move, so it was really the worst time for someone to be insisting on more money from us. She finally says that if I give her an amount I am willing to pay, she can go talk to the doctors and ask if it is ok. Well, I knew it would be the summer before my flex spending account would have any more money in it, so I suggested a small payment amount (but more than double my current amount) until summer where I could take care of the rest. She wasn't nice about it at all, but said she would get back to me.
A couple days later I hear from her and she informs me that the doctors said no way, and has now proposed an amount that is even higher than the letter stated. I get a little upset at this, reiterating how long I have been with the practice, how I don't understand why they don't seem willing to work with me when other local doctor's offices were completely willing to help me out. I ask her what happens if I can't afford what they are asking. I ask if I can speak to someone else about this, because clearly her and I don't seem to be communicating very well about this. She says she will have this other person call me and hangs up.
Side Note: Sometime during all of this I do find out I am pregnant. I start to panic because we hit a snag with our financing for a mortgage. And my oldest child does not get accepted to the private highschool we applied her to-the only one in her class that didn't get in somewhere. I am heartbroken for her. I don't know how to fix this. I am stressed out, super emotional, and freaking out because the highschool she would have to go to if we didn't move is horrible. I have dumped all the money I have into clearing every last thing off my credit to push my score up and fixing my car. I asked the other 2 doctor's offices to work with me on money I owe, and they were awesome about it. One even let me defer payments on braces until July.
A few days later after a particularly rough night of sleep and a bad phone call informing me that our financing plan wasn't going to work (which later was verified to be false information) where we thought for a moment we weren't going to be able to move at all, I get a call from billing again only it is the same girl as it has been. I was at my wits end and I will admit I wasn't very nice. I asked why she was calling me again, that I asked to talk to someone else for a reason, that if they wouldn't allow me to speak with anyone else just to send me the payment letter and be done with it and stop calling me about it. She says ok and hangs up. I figured I would get the letter, pay what I could, and re-deal with them later when they saw I could only pay what I could pay.
I was expecting the payment letter with the terms of payment expected to come in the mail. Instead I receive a letter stating that since I refuse to discuss a payment plan with them (um, what???) that they are turning my account over to collections and that I have 30 days to find a new doctor for my kids. It says I have 3 days from date of the letter to contact them. Which fell on a Saturday, and they were closed. I freaked out. Finding a new doctor was easy...but I had just spent the past year and 3 months fixing my credit, and they are turning my account over to collections. If that happened, my credit would tank and I wouldn't be able to get financed. The crazy thing was, I had been trying to work with them. This whole ordeal of back and forth was over a matter of weeks!!!
The letter had a third person's name on it, but it was someone whom I was vaguely familiar with. I left a voicemail, but unsure if the number was correct because there was someone else's name on the message. I wrote a long letter detailing everything and faxed it over. And first thing Monday morning I called the front desk. I talked to the one awesome girl who I am most friendly with, explained I knew this wasn't her job but could she help me, and told her what had happened. The pregnancy hormones caught up with me and I started crying. She was so nice about it and got my letter to the correct person. It was the craziest I have ever felt.
In the end, none of the loyalty meant a damn thing. I convinced them to not put the account in collections and just accepted their ridiculous payment plan. But I wasn't allowed to come back to the practice, not that I would have wanted to. I thought about only paying until I knew our credit checks were in the clear, but I didn't do that. I had to pay an extra $50 for all my kids medical records. I refused to tell them who our new doctor was. I made my husband pick up the records and make the payment. Our very last payment was due in the middle of our move. I actually got the pay notice a few days late due to our forwarded mail. The next day my husband called to make that last payment, and ended up talking to that billing girl because the account was already in collections, for being less than a week late. He explained why, and she gave him a hard time but took the payment. She put it in collections anyway though because we started getting collection calls and then a collections letter that listed a date as after our payment was made. So she did it on purpose. My husband let her have it, and she claimed to not know about it, but he also talked to the collection agency who had her name and info and said she never informed them the account was paid.
Karma is a bitch. She will get hers.