Help Squad: Surgery turns into billing nightmare for North Shore dad

Dear Help Squad,

I am having some problems with Advocate General Hospital in Park Ridge and their vendors on an uninsured but doctor-recommended surgical procedure my son had recently. Since it was not covered by my health provider, I asked them for a written quote on what it would cost, or even a range (within $5,000) in writing, which they refused to provide. All I could get from them verbally is that it would cost between $8,000 and $10,000 if there were no complications. The bill came in at almost $17,000 (and there were no complications).

My question: Can you help me? This is a lot of money for us and although I am sure I would win in court, the lawyer fees will probably be quite high.

Thanks in advance for your consideration,

Mike, The Northern Suburbs

 

Help Squad received this letter back in October, and we have been working on this case ever since.

We finally have some results.

We spoke with Mike shortly after we got his letter. First he explained why the cost of his 16-year-old son’s surgery was so much higher than predicted. The hospital admitted that they double booked the doctor who was performing Mike’s son’s surgery, and that since Mike’s son was already under general anesthesia, they had to keep him under until the doctor was able to get to him, resulting in double the amount of needed anesthesia.

Despite being extremely alarmed upon hearing the fact that his son was kept under anesthesia longer than he needed to be, Mike paid the hospital $8,800 shortly after he received the bill, which was for roughly $17,000, but lowered to $13,000 if he paid cash within 30 days.

Mike said he called the hospital approximately 15 times and left messages over the next few weeks to try to have the $5,000 difference removed. Instead of responding, the hospital turned the account over to various collection agencies, including the Des Plaines-based collection agency, Medical Recovery.

Enter Help Squad.

With Mike on the line, we called Medical Recovery and spoke with someone named Nicole, who wouldn’t give us her title, and who also told us there was no manager we could speak with at the company.

Mike told Nicole he would pay Medical Recovery $1,000 to have the debt cleared, and Nicole told us she would get back to us. After 12-15 phone calls, all in which we left messages for Nicole, neither Help Squad nor Mike ever heard back from her.

So, last week, we decided to get to the bottom of this by going to the top.

Help Squad finally tracked down management at Medical Recovery, Michael Gerlach, and another executive who said his name was Steve.

The two assured us they would look into it, and they did.

Within a couple of days, Mike got a call from James Hobbs, director of customer service for Advocate Lutheran General.

After their discussion, Hobbs agreed to adjust Mike’s bill so that no payment is due!

While we commend Hobbs and Advocate Lutheran General for doing the right thing, the whole ordeal has left Mike with some problems. He is now being chased by two collection agencies, and his credit report has been affected.

A few days ago, Mike sent an e-mail to Hobbs asking for the hospital’s assistance in the removal of his debts from the collection agencies. Help Squad left four messages for Hobbs and didn’t hear back. However, we want to make it clear that it doesn’t mean Hobbs is ignoring Mike’s letter.

 

Dear Mike,

We are so happy that your hospital bill is cleared, but we are sorry that you might be facing some credit issues in the future that are not your fault. We do want to let you know how glad we are that your son is healthy and doing well. We know that like any parent, you realize that is the most important factor in all of this.

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