The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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Is it just me? An increase in incorrect billing.

Posted by ALmod on May 28, 2009

Over the past few months, I’ve considered myself lucky and at the same time cursed.  I consider myself lucky because if I’d been raised to be less diligent in reading my bills and documentation, we’d have paid out roughly $2000 more.  At the same time, this has been at the expense of wasting countless hours over the phone with various customer service reps while arguing over how I’ve been charged for something I shouldn’t have been.

I’m not the only one.  A quick Google search would suggest that incorrect billing is on the rise just in time for the economy to be in a mess and your paycheck to be feeling the stretch.  Could this be a coincidence?  Maybe, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

I’ve heard the stories, and I’m sure you have, too.  There are some companies out there who do it on purpose to see if people will pay the bills to avoid the hassle, but if you call them, they’ll remove the charges.  (By the way, keep an eye on your credit report, too.  If they “forget” to correct their mistake, they could very well report you.)  My current battles have been with Windstream/Dish Network and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

The problems with Windstream started when they offered to bundle my phone service with my internet and dish service (Dish Network).  At the time, it was explained to me that it would cost the price of the bundle plus whatever my current rate was with my dish service.  It was never explained to me that it would renew my contract with anyone, though I assumed my contract with my phone company would be renewed.  Since the price on my dish service remained the same according to the person I spoke with, I never assumed my contract with Dish would be renewed.  Imagine my surprise when we switched to DirecTV and were told by Dish that to cancel would cost us nearly $200 for breaking our contract.  There was nothing in writing other than a call summary ticket that was written by an employee of the company who sad I owed them money (how convenient).  Nowhere did you see anything written with my signature agreeing to the terms.  I was able to talk them out of the cancellation fees on the grounds that they deduct the $5 savings that we’d received for a few months from our prepaid month of service that was to be returned.

But that’s not where it ended.  After the service had been cancelled and the receivers for Dish had been returned, our next phone bill came in with the usual monthly charge for dish service.  We called Windstream and thought we’d resolved the issue.  We didn’t have to pay the dish charge.  When the bill came again, there was the charge same as it was before, and so the process began again.  (If this happens a third month in a row, we get free DSL service for two months.  Perhaps that will give them proper motivation to correct the bill.)

Blue Cross/Blue Shield has been a matter of not receiving coverage we’re paying for.  Our documentation states that regular office visits and preventative care are covered with a $20 copay.  There have been no changes to that coverage in 2-3 years and there will be no further changes until August of this year.  So when I showed up for my yearly gynocologist exam and find that I had an unpaid account balance, I wasn’t happy.  I actually paid that one, since it was only $10.

But then I got the bill for $50 from a lab in Atlanta for my pap smear.  It had been filed with the insurance company, and BC/BS hadn’t paid up.  Maybe it was filed incorrectly, so I decided to wait until I got the statement from BC/BS.  I only had to wait one day.  The statement showed where my doctor’s office had charged them for the test and the exam (all standard and all covered in every single yearly visit I’ve had since my teens), but BC/BS didn’t pay it and stated in the statement that I owed $150 to my doctor and the lab for services that should have been covered in my roughly $130/month premium.  The reason given according to the statement is that I’ve already received maximum benefits for this treatment for the year.  Considering that I only have one exam per year and I’d actually waited longer than a year in between, I don’t see how that’s a possibility.

So tomorrow I get to do the dance over the phone with BC/BS.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

So keep this in mind when you get your bills.  These are just two of the most recent situations where we’ve noticed problems.  Don’t just pay your bills.  READ them.

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2 Responses to “Is it just me? An increase in incorrect billing.”

  1. BrokeSnake said

    Consider me the uninitiated in this matter, but can the BBB not do anything on the consumer’s behalf?

    What kind of bodies exist to investigate these type of things? I know there are things like Consumer Reports and such, but, to borrow a concept from criminal justice, what is out there to restore a victim of what is essentially fraud, waste, and abuse?

  2. ALmod said

    Yes, you can report to various agencies, and there’s no doubt that at some point someone will file a class action suit, but these things take forever and a week, so in the meantime, you have to take measures to protect yourself.

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