I am not known for my aplomb when something unexpected happens.
So when I went to visit Mom today and saw her latest medical bill for her office visit on 12/12/12, I felt rather good that I managed to keep my head from exploding.
For some reason her co-pay had risen from $20 to $232.92. (The full charge for that 15 minute office visit was actually $378, btw.)
And as if that wasn't enough, there was an annotation on the bill: "Lifetime benefit maximum reached"
"God damned fucking HMOs," I managed not to say, though I was thinking it.
Once I got home, I placed a call to the billing department.
After identifying myself, I told the chap who answered that I was calling on behalf of my mother and that I had a question about her latest bill.
He asked me a series of questions to verify my identity, such as her date of birth, etc., and then asked to speak to her.
"Uh, she's not here," I replied. "I'm her son."
"I'm sorry but I need authorization from her before I can answer your question about the bill."
At this point I allowed a note of light sarcasm* to slip into my voice. "Well, my second question was going to be can I pay the bill over the phone."
"OK, what did you want to know?"
So I told him about the 10-fold rise in her co-pay and the annotation.
"I'm certain that is a mistake. Can I call you back after I check into it?"
About three minutes later, he called and verified that it was a mistake, the bill was for $20, and I paid it via credit card.
*Perhaps "allowed" is not quite the right word; and he might dispute the characterization of "light sarcasm".