OP-ED: Check-out at 12 p.m.? Not at your local hospital
It happened to me and you, too, may have been overcharged.
I was an inpatient at an Upper West Side hospital and checked out after my procedure at 10 a.m. I noticed on my bill that I was charged for the entire day, even though I left in the morning. When I asked what constituted a day, I was referred to my medical provider. When I asked Blue Cross, I was referred to their booklet covering the Blue Cross Advantage Plus plan. The booklet simply stated the amount I was required to pay but did not explain what constituted a day.
As I explained to them, when I check into a hotel, I am advised when checking in what their policy is regarding charges for the day I check out. Considering the prices hospitals charge for their rooms, shouldn't I be entitled to this same information? No one gave me an answer, so I refused to pay for the day I checked out.
They threatened to report me to a credit agency. I still refused to pay. I did some research and found out that, according to Medicare regulations, the last billable day you are responsible for is the day preceding the day of discharge. For example, if you check in on Monday and check out on Thursday, the last day you are responsible for is Wednesday. When I brought this to the hospitals attention, they canceled their charge for me. But what about you and your friends? Who is looking out for you?
After almost two years, I fought to get CMS, the government agency responsible for implementing such regulations, to have the medical insurance providers correct their booklets explaining what constitutes a billable day. But this information will not go out until late this year.
In order to alert the public in the meantime, so millions of others will not be duped into paying these illegal charges, I have contacted Senator Schumer, Public Advocate James, Manhattan Borough President Brewer asking them to send a letter to all the Medical Insurance providers to alert the hospitals they deal with to give to all new inpatients a statement explaining that the last day that copayments are required is the day preceding the day of discharge.
I am not trying to pass any new legislation; it's already the law. All I am soliciting from them is their help in protecting their constituents from paying charges which are illegal. Will I continue to be a voice in the wilderness, my quest for action become merely an exercise in futility? I hope not.
H.P. Schroer lives on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side
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