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TMCNet:  Your medical bill, an explanation

[December 18, 2012]

Your medical bill, an explanation

Dec 17, 2012 (The Herald-Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Dear former patient, Our payment procedure in dealing with your recent procedure follows a certain prescribed procedure.

While we understand there is no way you will possibly understand the attached bill, we are sending it to you anyway in the hope that you won't look too closely and will just pay it, figuring that in the end, what the hell, that's the insurance company's job.

Here is a short explanation of the terms used in the bill: Date of service: This is the date you came into the office for your procedure. Or it may be the time your credit card payment actually was approved for the procedure or it's when the insurance payment kicked in.

Then again, it could have been the date for the final game of the 2011 World Series.

Description: This is where we remind you of why you had an appointment with us in the first place. We could have said "examination" or "strep test" or "my toe hurts," but instead of actually using words, we have chosen to use code numbers that will help you unlock your locker at the gym.

Each number is coded to a particular symptom and a particular specialist whom you never actually met and whose name you have never heard but who you nevertheless will be sending payments to through next May.

Charges: These are the big numbers designed to give you a real charge when you read them and think, for just a moment, that you may actually have to pay them. It's our way of offering you a stress test free of charge. In fact, it's the only thing we offer free of charge.

Co-pays: This is what your co pays. You should discuss this with you co before the bill arrives.

UCR: This is the "usual and customary" charge for your service or procedure, although no one actually pays it because it's usual and customary only in Montclair, New Jersey, on Tuesdays in August.

Insurance adjustments: This is the adjustment the insurance company has made based on how many times you have bothered them with phone calls over the last few months asking why they still haven't paid for the time you got your eyeglasses replaced in 2009. The more calls, the lower the adjustment.

Insurance payments: This is what the insurance company has actually paid once they've subtracted the insurance adjustment and the co-pay before dividing it by the UCR and multiplying by the square of the hypotenuse. By law, this payment will always be 97 cents less or more than a number that actually makes sense.

Current amount you owe: This is the column you should have read first, because then you could have ignored all the other columns and not had to figure out the square of the hypotenuse.

Please take two of these bills and call us in the morning.

Neil Offen can be reached at or by telephone at 919-419-6646.

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