5 On Your Side

Additional Hospital Bills Make Contractor Sick

Posted December 13, 2006 4:35 p.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2006 7:00 p.m. EST

— When a worker on one of Jimmy Bridges' construction crews cut himself last year, Bridges drove him to University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill to get stitched up.

What Bridges never expected, though, was that he would get sewn into a web of red tape and endless bills that would last more than a year.

Bridges paid the initial $180 bill at the hospital. A month later, a $390 doctor bill and a hospital bill showing a $91 account balance arrived in the mail, so he immediately paid both.

"In less than 20 days, I got another bill from the hospital with another balance. It was $291 more, so I paid it," he said.

That brought the total for four stitches to $952, and he figured that was it.

But in June -- more than a year after the hospital visit -- he got another bill for $753.

Bridges said he went round and round with UNC Hospitals and a collection agency, making calls and writing letters saying he didn't think he should have to pay the $753 because he was billed so long after the fact.

"If I pay this $753, a year later can they come back and now a year later say, 'We made a mistake again, and you owe us now $1,000,'" he said. "How far does it go?"

Bridges finally called 5 On Your Side for help.

After 5 On Your Side called UNC Hospitals about the bills, the hospital agreed to drop the $753 charge.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Crayton said Bridges was originally billed too little because the hospital coded the case wrong.

The confusion started because Bridges was a third party paying someone else's bill. Most of the time, Crayton said, a third party is an insurance company, and Bridges was originally billed the price insurance companies pay for treatment, which is much less than what people who don't have or don't use insurance pay.

Once the billing department discovered the mistake, the hospital sent the larger bill.

Bridges said he is relieved the final bill was rescinded, but he said he can't imagine doing that to one of his customers.

"My customers would laugh at me. They really would," he said.