AVH resolving billing problems | AspenTimes.com

AVH resolving billing problems

ASPEN Less than a month into a 90-day billing grace period for frustrated customers, Aspen Valley Hospital says it has resolved close to one-third of the complaints.And “the very vast majority of accounts,” said hospital CEO David Ressler, have not revealed errors, overcharges or other missteps by the hospital’s billing system.Ressler said approximately 1,000 of the roughly 3,500 disputed billing accounts have been reviewed and either paid by the customers or, in the cases where mistakes were found, adjustments made to the amounts owed while customers agree to pay the remainder.”Many times, it’s just an explanation required” from the hospital staff on the help line, established to deal with problems.Ressler was unable to say how much money has been has written off in the process of reviewing complaints.Ressler and the hospital board in mid-January announced the grace period, establishing a help line in response to public outcry over bills that, in some cases, dated back to 2004.”We acknowledge that these accounts are old, and we apologize for that,” Ressler said.He said there are an estimated 3,500 bills, which represent approximately $4.5 million in revenues, all from 2004 and 2005. Most of those, he said, had already been sent to collections by the time the outcry over billing irregularities began.In late 2006, customer complaints about bills began mounting, and newspaper articles began appearing, highlighting the problem. Customers claimed they had been improperly billed or had been sent to collections for bills that either they did not owe, felt were incorrect or had never had any notice of.Customers complained they were billed for charges covered by insurance, but were rejected because the hospital was late in issuing payment requests.”We will ‘adjust off’ any errors that are out responsibility,” Ressler said, “but we’re not finding many of those.”And, he acknowledged, “There are still some problem accounts that we are working on.”Ressler also has said 93 percent of bills are from the past couple of years – amounting to 45,000 or 50,000 accounts per year – and have not resulted in complaints or problems.It is the remaining 7 percent, he said, necessitating the 90-day grace period and help line.Ressler said the hospital currently has an “accounts receivable” going back 54 days, which is better than the national average of 56.And, current billing is being handled by an outside contractor using an up-to-date computer system.”I would never claim that we don’t make mistakes,” he said, “but the system has been working well.”Ressler said the grace period will last until mid-April or perhaps longer, stressing it will remain in effect until all the 3,500 bills are dealt with.”What we try to keep encouraging everybody to do is call the help line” with any billing questions, Ressler said.People with questions about their accounts can call financial counselor Debby Essex at the hospital, 544-7694, or Ed Lockliear with the hospital’s billing contractor, First Consulting Group, at (863) 205-3217. John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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