Woman, hospital at odds over treatment and $12,000 in bills
A local woman told the Aspen Valley Hospital board last night that she and her daughter have been barred from treatment for a neurological disease at the hospital because of outstanding bills they didn’t know they owed.Kay Honigman-Singer and her daughter had been treated in the hospital’s physical therapy department for Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome, a nonfatal disease that attacks the peripheral nervous system, since June 2003. There is no cure for the syndrome, but physiotherapy can slow the onset of symptoms, according to an online medical journal. Last month, according to Honigman-Singer, hospital physiotherapists told them they could not continue treatment because AVH’s billing office reported $12,000 in uncollected bills.Honigman-Singer said previous bills sent to her from the hospital had not reported the $12,000. An AVH bill dated Aug. 5, given to The Aspen Times by Singer, states she must pay $233.20, but makes no mention of $12,000. A Sept. 5 bill stated no outstanding charges.Singer said she is prepared to settle what she owes and feels treatment should continue until the issue is resolved.”We didn’t know we owed that much,” Honigman-Singer said before the meeting. “It’s the hospital’s screw-up. I don’t understand why they stopped our care when it’s their mess. We are insured.”It’s not like we’re transient and going to run away from a bill.”In the past year, the hospital uncovered major flaws in its billing office that led to millions of dollars in lost revenue and confusion among many bill payers. A hospital spokeswoman said she could not comment on whether Honigman-Singer’s situation was a result of the billing problems. “We can’t comment,” said Ginny Dyche, director of community relations. “We have a legal and an ethical responsibility to hold all matters relative to our patients in confidence and that includes billing.”Speaking in general terms, Dyche said the hospital’s policy is never to refuse treatment for nonelective or emergency care. But elective treatment, such as certain physical therapy treatments, can be refused to patients who aren’t paying bills. “There are situations in which we would not provide care, such as unpaid bills,” Dyche said. “In all cases – elective or nonelective – we expect people to pay their deductibles and co-pays.”Potentially complicating the matter is that Honigman-Singer’s insurance carrier is Blue Cross, a company with which AVH does not have a contractual agreement. In such cases, the hospital collects payment directly from the patient, who in turn is reimbursed by Blue Cross.Yesterday hospital treasurer John Jellinek said the hospital is out nearly $2.5 million because patients were paid by Blue Cross and then failed to pay the hospital.”I can’t comment if that’s the issue with [Honigman-Singer’s] case,” Jellinek said after the meeting.Honigman-Singer said she is prepared to pay her balance once she is convinced the bills are correct. She emphasized that all she wants is for treatment to continue in the interim.”It’s not fair for the hospital to deny treatment while they are fixing their own problems,” she said.Newly appointed CEO David Ressler said he would meet personally with Honigman-Singer and promised a swift resolution to the dispute.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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