5 On Your Side

Wake County woman deals with medical billing issue

Posted August 16, 2010 5:00 p.m. EDT
Updated August 16, 2010 6:12 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.

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