5 On Your Side

Raleigh Woman Battles WakeMed Bills

Posted April 8, 2008 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2008 10:05 a.m. EDT

— 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.