5 On Your Side

Wake County woman deals with medical billing issue

Posted August 16, 2010

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— For people who don't have insurance, it's not as simple as paying a co-pay. They have to pay the entire bill and – often before they leave the doctor or hospital.

Sometimes additional charges pop up, but patients expect to be billed in a reasonable amount of time.

Anita Geib, of Wendell, ran into a problem after going to Blue Ridge Family Physicians. Geib went to Blue Ridge after her hairdresser noticed her hair was falling out.

“I told them I did not have insurance,” Geib said. “They told me that my balance for that day needed to be paid in full before I left. And I was good with that.”

Geib’s bill for the visit and list of lab tests that day was $566. She paid in full and left with a zero balance – or so she thought.

Nearly 11 months later, Geib said, she got a new bill for the same June 2009 visit. This bill was for $557.

“Looking at the numbers cause it's so close, I thought, 'Oh, it's the same amount, they made a mistake,” Geib said.

Anita Geib, of Wake County, Wake County woman deals with medical billing issue

When she called Blue Ridge, office manager Cathy Blackman told her the delayed bill was a mistake, in that it was late, but Geib did owe the money. Blackman quickly offered a 40 percent discount, but Geib decided to call 5 on Your Side, instead.

When WRAL News called Blue Ridge, Blackman said the doctor didn't submit the billing information for some of the tests until after Geib left. She said the error showed up in an audit – months later.

Blackman called it "unfortunate," adding she "wouldn't like it either." But while she doesn't think it's fair for their office to "eat the whole charge," she went ahead and dropped the additional $557 in charges.

Geib said the additional billing doesn't make sense to her.

“I liken it to taking your car into a mechanic and they do all this work. They give you a bill. You pay for it and you have a zero balance, but then a year later they say, ‘Oh, no, there's some work that we did that we're gonna charge you for now,’” she said.

Blackman told 5 on Your Side that Blue Ridge only handles lab billing for its non-insurance patients to save customers money. It has the lab bill the insurance company directly for patients who are insured. She said because of this situation, the practice will start handing over all billing to the lab.

Five on Your Side asked a medical coding expert about the situation. She believes doctor's offices should always warn uninsured patients there could be additional charges. She said those charges should show up within 14 to 30 days.

9 Comments

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  • superman Aug 23, 2010

    People who work in a doctors office have nothing to gain by charging extra. They just do the best they can and try to charge the patients correctly. The accounting people are not putting their money in their pocket so they have nothing to gain by being dishonest. If she had the tests-- she should have paid for them. I am sure she is smart enough to know she had work done that she didnt pay for. The length of time is unfortunate but she ended up getting longer to pay for the bill. I have Medicare and BCBS. I have an office co--pay and then about 8 months later I have to pay whatever they didnt pay. It is just the way it works. Some people just want free.

  • dougdeep Aug 18, 2010

    Medical offices think they can do whatever they want. Start asking question folks and make them work for their money.

  • Stormy13 Aug 18, 2010

    I go to Blue Ridge Family Physicans, have been doing so for well over five years and have NEVER had a problem with anyone within this office. Everyone that I have dealt with has been very nice, open and friendly. That even goes for the tech that draws my blood for lab tests. I visit every 3 to 4 months to keep track of my medical issues and just couldn't wish for a better medical office staff. By the way, I am 61 years old and know very well what my bills come to each visit.

  • myers1962 Aug 17, 2010

    Every medical office/lab does audits to catch charges that are missed. Should it happen? No. Does it happen? Yes. If this patient had insurance, believe it or not, her insurance would still have accepted the claim even though it was from last year. That's why the window for filing insurance claims averages 6 months to a year from the date of the visit. I'm also betting there was a sign somewhere in that office that says labs are additional and will be billed separately. One of the reasons why medical expenses are so high is situations exactly like this. Patients have procedures performed and then balk at paying so the physician / lab / medical equipment company, etc. end up eating the cost. In the end the rest of us end up paying for someone who didn't understand the process/procedure & refused even a generous discount offered. So, now the next patient who needs a break on their bill won't get one because this practice won't deal with labs for self-pay patients any longer.

  • OGE Aug 17, 2010

    I've dealt with Blue Ridge Family Physicians and would never go back there. The office staff is inept and the doctors treated my wife like she wasnothing more than a bother to them.

  • GOT_FAITH Aug 17, 2010

    I THINK SOME NOT MEDICAL OFFICES OVER CHARGE PATIENTS THAT HAVE INSURANCE AND NON-INSURED PATIENT TO MAKE UP MONEY LOST IN THEIR COMPANY. I HAVE KNOW FOR PEOPLE TO SAY THAT IF YOU HAVE SOME SORT OF INSURANCE THEY WILL DOUBLE CHARGE THE PATIENT FOR THE INSURANCE COMPANY TO SEND THEM MORE MONEY FOR THE SERVICE THEY DID THAT WASN'T THAT MUCH.I THINK SOME INSUANCE COMPANY AND OTHERS NEED TO PAY SPECIA; ATTENTION ON THIS MATTER CAUSE ITS HAPPENING TO PEOPLE EVERYDAY, DONT LET IT BE ELDER PEOPLE TRYING TO SETTLE A BILL THAT WANT DO A LICK TO GET IT RIGHT BECAUSE SOME OF THEM CAN'T REMEMBER IF IT WAS PAYED OR NOT AND BE PAYING A BILL TWICE. HOW SAD BUSINESS DOES INSURED AND NON-INSURED PATIENTS. GOOD LUCK.............

  • cocker_mom Aug 17, 2010

    Different take. Did she really get $1K worth of bloodwork done in this office visit? I used to go to a "fee for service" Dr that did not take insurance. So - my annual physical, along with labs / bloodwork would be about $450.

    Simply put - bloodwork isn't that expensive.

    And - had she had insurance - the insurance company would have paid about $50 for that and the lab would accept it as payment in full.

    Simply put - it's a messed up system when a person can't afford a single trip to the Dr.

  • JAT Aug 17, 2010

    I would venture to say that there is a sign in there or she signed something that said lab charges would come later. It's just common sense that they can't bill for the labs until the labs are done. But instead of using common sense and paying what she knows she owes, she calls the media and the company gives in.

  • readme Aug 17, 2010

    She got an interest-free loan for a year.