Dear Medical Association Of Georgia: Do Better

Hello MAG. It’s time we had a little chat.

You guys come to the capitol every year, and talk about reducing the burden of regulation on your physicians so they can be free to practice medicine. It’s a worthy goal, one I’m usually sympathetic to. Or at least, I have been.

Do you know where bad regulations come from? They come from upset voters who complain to legislators after having bad experiences. They come from people who feel powerless to stop bad practices and bad management, and want the government’s help to level the playing field.

You guys have some very bad practices. If you’re not careful, you’re going to get more – not less – regulations.

As I’ve discussed here before, I’ve spent way too much time running healthcare gauntlets from November until the end of March. In care for myself, two relatives, and a personal friend, I’ve been through three hospitals, and numerous doctors offices, specialty clinics, pharmacies, and other health care providers.

What I’m finding is that your folks have fallen in love with robocalls. Specifically, these robocalls do not offer the ability to connect to a live person. Instead, after a ridiculously long message, they ask me to call a phone number back if I need to change an appointment, make a payment, or take any other action. Often after business hours.

If you’re calling my cell phone (and I’m dumb enough to answer an unknown number), do you honestly expect me to be able to write down a number on the fly as you say it – once? You’re wasting your time and mine.

What I’m finding specifically troublesome is your collection calls. I’m now getting them for someone that I have never had financial responsibility for. Someone I’ve never signed a payment form for. In at least two cases now, someone I never even visited the doctors office with. ON MY CELL PHONE.

Yes, this person had good insurance and the ability to pay. Yes, I know who the responsible party is, who is now trying to navigate the maze of medical billing and determine who to pay. Yes, I would normally be happy to connect the two parties. But I’m not going to do it when you robocall my cell phone, and don’t have the ability for me to connect that call to a live operator.

Further demerits go to the collection agency for METROPOLITIAN RADIOLOGY ASSOCIATES, who when I called back to talk to a live person, told me their debt collectors’ wait time was extremely busy, and to press # if I wanted a call back in TWO TO FOUR DAYS. You guys deserve to not get paid.

My reaction to these calls is to do this: I’m calling back each one, asking them to remove my name from their call list. Informing them I don’t owe this debt. And urging them to not contact me again or I will go after them under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Yes, I would otherwise be glad to help you, but you aren’t willing to help yourself and I’m not willing to do your work for you.

I’m also going to do this. I’m going to be very receptive to any legislator that wants to get some easy public opinion points to outlaw these kinds of robocalls. I’d also encourage any legislation that outlaws these kinds of shotgun collection tacts, where you’re obviously calling any number related to a patient record without any regard for who actually owes the debt.

MAG, your members need to do better. Either you can encourage them from within, or we can be writing about this all the way through the 2018 General Assembly session – and possibly get the Governor’s signature to help Georgians get a level playing field when it comes to your collection practices.

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John Stoj
John Stoj

There is no excuse for this. It is not health “care,” but it’s the taste left in many people’s mouths after receiving actual care. My wife is a physician. Over the past several years, after receiving hospital based care, we’ve received collections calls from debt collectors – several times from debt collectors hired by her own practice! We’re lucky. We have good insurance (as good as is available nowadays, at least). We have the willingness and ability to pay our bills. If you don’t send me clearly understandable invoices, in a timely manner, you may not get paid. If you… Read more »

gcp
gcp

Sounds like a problem with the provider. The question is how did the provider get your name/info (if you are not the patient) and why did they send that info to the debt collector.

Ellynn
Ellynn

It’s not just Georgia. I got a call 3 years ago from a collection agency in a town I never heard of in Vermont asking me to settle a bill for my former sister-in-law. We had similar names when she was married to the sibling. My brother has been divorced over a decade and lives in Wisconsin. I’m in Georgia, my former step nephews are in Maine, and I had not a clue where she was. The agency was completely sure she was me. I asked them how they even got this number – I was informed I’m a ‘related… Read more »

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

Yes. I’ve experienced these un-pleasantries as well. I just block all those robo numbers. We’ve probably all seen the overcharges and miscoded billing in medical bills. Unless, of course, your insurance pays it all and you don’t bother to question charges for services not given. Its especially demotivating to look over billing statements, if you’ve been through months of end of care for a loved one and you are too exhausted care whether it is correct or not. The dirty secret in medical practice is ‘upcoding’. A carefully designed hierarchy of billing codes that doctors and providers use to bilk… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

I make a good faith payment on minimum I expect I’ll have to pay out of pocket upfront. Then I wait a few months for sustained collection efforts to begin before making any more payments, which I make directly to those owed. It’s the logical thing to do since insurance statements, billing amounts and those doing the billing repeatedly change, often reducing the amount owed.