September 22, 2013

Health-care system failing many

Our country has state-of-the-art medical facilities and brilliant doctors who can work what would have been considered miracles a generation ago, yet there’s no question that health care in our country is broken.

The system is designed to earn profits more than it is to take care of Americans (the top five health-insurance companies averaged about $2.5 billion in profits last year), thus tens of millions of people don’t have any insurance at all, while many more struggle to pay their bills. It’s estimated that more than a million people declare bankruptcy each year due to medical bills.

It’s a very serious issue, one that hits close to home, and one that will on occasion keep me up at night. And it has no bearing on my gripe today.

My tiny, minuscule issue came from paying some recent medical bills. Not affording the bills, but actually paying them. It ruined one recent morning, and perhaps I can save someone else the same frustration.

Due to several visits and minor tests, my wife had a few separate medical bills to pay. Since I prefer to pay our bills electronically, I went on the hospital’s website to complete the transaction.

Rather than pay four separate bills, I elected to sign up as a “frequent patient” and pay them all at once. Ha.

The sign-up page asked for three simple pieces of information: A recent account number, the patient’s name and our zip code. Easy. I almost never get my wife’s name wrong, I memorized our zip code days ago, and though each bill had a different account number, I had all four right in front of me.

“Authorization failed.”

Huh, that’s odd. I tried again. Authorization failed. Did I accidentally misspell the name? Nope. Did I mistype a digit? Nope. I tried some common misspellings of our last name, using a Q and fewer “Ls” and/or “T’s” and “E’s.” No luck.

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