5 On Your Side

Raleigh Woman Battles WakeMed Bills

Posted April 8, 2008
Updated April 9, 2008

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— When Kathryn Jones gave birth to her youngest son, Benjamin, she had no idea she’d still be grappling over the hospital bill eight months later.

Jones was charged nearly $700 for Benjamin’s birth at WakeMed. She was given two choices at the time: pay the amount in full within six months or pay immediately and save about $105.

Jones said it was worth paying immediately to save some money.

“As far as I knew, everything was fine. I got a letter from WakeMed saying that those cards had gone through and the balance that I owed them was zero,” Jones said.

Then Jones received a letter stating that she still owed $105.

“I called and talked to the original woman in their billing department and said, 'What's this about?' and she said just ignore it. It's a system-generated letter and just ignore it,” Jones said.

Then another bill arrived for the same amount. Jones figured out that the $105 bill was tied to the discount she had received for paying early, so she contacted WakeMed.

“I said ‘Oh, this is clearly a mistake, and now I figured it out and you can clear it up in your system,’” she said.

But clearing it up wasn’t that easy.

Jones said the woman she spoke to at WakeMed told her, “Yes this is a valid amount and we're billing you for it.”

Though Jones told the woman she had the letter saying that she had paid in full, she said the person said she didn’t “care what the letter says.”

Jones left repeated messages for a supervisor, but didn't get anywhere.

Then, she began receiving letters and calls from a collection agency. Even after sending proof of payment, she couldn't reach a resolution.

“It made me feel like I'd gone to a store and bought something on sale and then months later was told I had to pay the difference that they'd given me on sale and that's just not how you do things and it's not the way you treat a customer,” Jones said.

Jones correctly handled the disputing of the charge with the collection agency. She wrote a letter that included proof the bill was paid in full and instructed the agency not to contact her again under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

When 5 on Your Side contacted WakeMed, a spokeswoman immediately dropped the charge, saying Jones got "caught in the automated system." She agreed it should have been fixed when Jones first called.

The situation has been resolved now. Jones' bill was for her portion of the charges after insurance payments.

20 Comments

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  • St Ives Apr 10, 2008

    sounds to me the people in the billing department are not doing their job. It is not that hard to figure out who owes what, especially after they call and request you clear things up.

  • obs Apr 9, 2008

    i paid my emergency room copay on the spot at REX, and they did a similar thing to me. Sent me a nasty collection letter months later, with threats of reporting non-pay to the credit bureau. Had to photocopy the RECEIPT and send it to them.

    If you think the gov't mismanages money, they don't hold a candle to the average hospital.

  • Fuquay Resident Apr 9, 2008

    Chedderhead, I ran into the same issue you did with an in-network ER and out of network doctors. When I got the bill in the mail, I called the doctor and insurance company and asked them if I was supposed to stop everyperson that came in my room and ask them if they were in-network before I allowed them to see me. The pathology lab was also out of network and I didn't even get to see them. They ended up accepting the amount the insurance paid them.

  • cheddarhead Apr 9, 2008

    Be very careful at Wakemed or whatever hospital you go to. My son was in a car accident (someone hit the car he was a passenger in) He went to Wake Med which is in network for us BUT guess what? The doctors weren't in network! We had to pay the hospital bill and a doctors bill. We saw the doctor for about 5 minutes out of the whole 4 hours we were there! When I asked about it the lady was rude and said to pay the bill and stop questioning it. If we wanted in network doctors we should have checked on that. I said, "are you kidding me? My child was in an accident and that isn't what I was concerned with at the time. I figured because the hospital was in network so were the doctors." She said, "I guess you were wrong." Needeless to say, I filled out the How Did We Do Survey that came after and complained but never heard a thing about it. The triag nurse was also rude and told us to stop telling her what was wrong with our son--she could see for herself.

  • bbad238 Apr 9, 2008

    If anyone thinks people can get totally free healthcare at a hospital, think again! I don't know what country your living in but it's not the United States. Don't ever stop in Sanford at Central Carolina Hospital. They'll turn you over to the creditors before you walk out the door or die on the table.

  • Pack1966 Apr 9, 2008

    Even though she thinks it is settled now, if the account was ever turned over to a collection agency, her credit report will probably take a ding. Hospitals and Ambulance Services seem incapable of accurate billing and collections, but they are quick to turn an account over to a collection agency. And it immediately shows up on your credit report. Then when you apply for a car loan, or mortgage loan, you look like a dead beat. Even when you paid the very bill that was turned over to collections.

  • bluebird1075 Apr 9, 2008

    The way hospitals bill now with each dr/dept billing for separate things, you don't know whats legitimate and what's not. There is no way of knowing whether the things you are billed for is what you got or if the dr even looked at you or your medical records. Our health care system is in BAD shape.

  • HappyGirl08 Apr 9, 2008

    Too bad she had to go thru so much. I agree w/the person from earlier though, she should check her credit reports and make sure they didn't put this on them.

  • Scubagirl Apr 9, 2008

    don't believe it's just Wake med. Duke worse or at least as bad

  • Scubagirl Apr 9, 2008

    Another example of an employee being to -----(many choices for the blank) to assist a customer. Lots of lazy folks getting a pay check nowadays!

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