Monday, July 06, 2009

How do you pay $240 per month for cable and phone?

How do you pay $240 per month for cable and phone? Simple, you spend 5 days at Howard County General Hospital. As you may know, my wife delivered our twins at HCGH. Overall, the people there (nurses, techs, doctors) were extremely nice and helpful. In fact, I would give them a 9 out of 10. However, the hospital itself is the provider of what has to be the most expensive basic cable + phone service ever! Why? Today I got a bill for television and phone services that was provided to us while my wife was admitted at HCGH. The bill was for $40 for a 5 day stay (which works out to be $8 per day or $240 per month). For basic cable and local only phone service!

Sure that's way way expensive but that's not the worst. The hospital doesn't provide a clear way for patients to opt out of this service. It is automatically turned on once you're admitted and nobody in the hospital (at least not all the people I asked) knows how to turn it off. In fact, one nurse we asked said tv was free!

Anyway, I got the bill, calculated the daily rate and promptly got pissed. I called the 3rd party billing company HCGH uses and after a 5-minute conversation, they removed the charges. Now, if you've ever tried to get an American company to forgive a bill, you know it usually takes more than 5 minutes. When it takes less than that, you know the company is aware of its own shaddy practices (like when Vista print sneaks monthly charges unto your business card order). I asked the customer service rep how patients are supposed to know they need to cancel this automatic service and she said I should take their (the 3rd party's) information and call themnext time I am admitted at HCGH. How preposterous!

I called the hospital and spoke to the nurse supervisor in charge, thinking she'll have a resonable answer for me. She didn't. In fact, she joined me in complaining because her husband was also charged after being admitted at HCGH.

To me, this looks like a racket being perpetuated by the hospital. They automatically turn on the services; bill you via a 3rd party and hope you pay just for convenience (after all, how many people want to deal with spurious charges during their convalescence?) And if 1 or 2 patients call and complain, they've pre-authorize their 3rd party billing dept to automatically waive the charges. After all, that'll be cheaper than not billing your patients $8 per day for substandard cable and local phone service!