The Checkout

Good News About Customer Service

When most of us talk about customer service, it's usually to complain, to say how poorly we've been treated. But this tale from a reader in Ohio shows how well customer service can work. The story from LDS, as he wants to be called, also illustrates a vital lesson to consumers: It never hurts to ask for a discount. (Of course this also raises questions about medical billing practices and the discounts some insured with one particular company get while others are forced to pay full price--but we'll save that discussion for another day).

So thanks to LDS for sending this me and if any of you have other stories to share--good and bad, please write me at thecheckout@washpost.com

Here's LDS's story:

After major surgery for cancer recently, I ventured back to the hospital to pay the last part of my bill. I am without insurance until I am covered by my wife's retirement medical insurance in another month.

My general practitioner told me to ask the hospital for a discount if I could pay the bill off entirely. Well, I had a great experience. I found the right office immediately and was helped by a billing supervisor. She took the time to make sure all the charges had been posted to my bill and made sure my previous payments had been charged against the correct accounts on my bill. I told her I wanted to put the remainder of the bill (over $ 14,000) on my credit card and asked her if the hospital would give me a 10% or 20% discount for paying it in full. She laughed and said "how about 25%, after all, it's Christmas!" I saved $3,500.

This was also true when I called the billing service for the doctors that performed the surgery. They gave me 20% off my bill of approx. $7,000.

The billing supervisor that helped me at the hospital gave me the phone number of the doctor's billing service and told me to call her if they didn't give me a discount and treat me right.

That is Customer Service!! You hear so many horror stories about the billing problems with hospitals and such, I thought I'd send along some good news.

By  |  January 18, 2006; 7:42 AM ET Customer Service
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Comments

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This is no news to anyone who's ever had to deal with hospital billing. If you're uninsured or have financial hardships, nine times out of ten, hospitals will work with you to either create a payment plan or will give you a "discount" on the services.

Posted by: C. Martinez | January 18, 2006 2:24 PM

Ok, so now this person gets to pay 20% interest every month on their discounted $14,000 bill. This is supposed to be a good thing?!

Posted by: human | January 19, 2006 10:49 AM

The hospital is incredibly lucky to be receiving 75 cents on the dollar. A health insurer would have reimbursed them probably around 25% of the actual bill. They got 300% more through this person. Unfortunately I'd actually say this person got ripped off.

Posted by: Pete | January 19, 2006 12:51 PM

pete is right. if the people who run hospitals had a conscience, the uninsured would be charged amounts equal to what health insurance companies are allowed to pay.

Posted by: john | January 21, 2006 11:43 PM

past experience with experian has and continues to be an excercise in frustration.attempts thru mail were unsuccessful until 3 tries attempts to contact are a joke and oline is just impossible

Posted by: lauren hamilton | January 24, 2006 4:18 PM

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