Hospital mails out old bills
Around 6,000 old bills, some more than a year late, have been sent to former patients of Aspen Valley Hospital in one the institution’s largest efforts yet to recoup revenue lost from years of inadequate billing practices.The bills have been sent with a form letter apologizing for the tardiness and offering a 5 percent discount to those who pay within 30 days.AVH spokeswoman Ginny Dyche said the bills charge only for co-pay or deductible payments that have gone uncollected. The mass mailing indicates a cleaning out of the uncollected bills.”All these accounts are for balances due after insurance payments – such as deductibles and co-pays,” Dyche said. “Because of system problems, these bills didn’t get sent to patients on time. We are now fully automated and are getting old bills out of the system and new bills out on time.”Last winter the hospital discovered flaws in its billing office that nearly led to bankruptcy. Millions of dollars in bills were not sent to patients. Hospital officials have warned for months that the effort to collect these bills was not over, regardless of how old the bills were.While insurance companies are often not required to pay bills older than six months, no such leeway exists for patients, Dyche said.The letter with the bills explains the hospital’s recent financial woes. “Aspen Valley Hospital has been involved in an ongoing process to bring all accounts to a current status, including this one,” the form letter reads in part. “We regret that you were not communicated with in a more timely fashion.”To accommodate patients, the letter offers a 5 percent deduction for patients who pay within 30 days of receiving the bill.Dyche defended the timing of the bills, sent out on the verge of the holiday season.”I don’t think there’s ever a good time to send people a bill,” she said. “Most people are not happy to get a bill, especially if it is old. But is it better to do it in mid-November or to wait until after Christmas? I think that’s difficult to judge.”Dyche did not know exactly how much money the 6,000 bills represent. She said that while the current mailing represents an important step toward recouping unpaid invoices, it is not the last of such efforts.”This is part of an ongoing process to clean up the system and establish a billing process that’s timely and comprehensive,” she said. “We need to do better and we are working really hard to do better.”Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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