Yeah, I’ll hurry up and pay
I thought Aspen Valley Hospital was on the mend after its well-publicized bout of mismanagement and financial hemorrhaging – until I got a couple of long-overdue bills this week. Apparently, many of us have taken an unexpected hit to our financial well-being, courtesy of AVH, which decided to catch up on some 6,000 bills right before the holidays. No time like the present, I guess, though I’d argue there was no time like a year-and-a-half ago to bill me for treatment I received a year-and-a-half ago. Not only would the hospital have had its money, but it’s a debt that would be behind me now.To ease my pain and suffering, in light of the billing department’s tardiness, AVH has offered me a 5 percent discount on what I owe if I pay up within 30 days. A friend of mine just received a bill for $4,000. I’m sure she’ll be jumping at the chance to save that 5 percent. Another acquaintance received a stack of envelopes that she’s afraid to open.I’m not sure what happens if I don’t pay. Perhaps a big guy named Guido with hairy knuckles will show up on my doorstep and break my legs. Two years later, I’ll get the bill for the repairs.Guido had better not show up for 16 months. I should be afforded the same lag time as the hospital.I can’t honestly say I understand how a hospital that has been operating for, I don’t know, a long time, simply stopped sending out bills for services rendered. Did everyone in billing take a nine-month coffee break or something? Maybe they ran out of stamps.You know, it’s not like I didn’t know I owed them money. And, it’s not as though they didn’t know I owed them money. In fact, when I was at the hospital last June for a routine thing, someone at the front counter handed me a computer printout that indicated my prior debt from my July 2003 visit. It was in the system, they knew I owed it, but the bill didn’t arrive until this week. They got around to billing me for the June visit this week, too.The whole snafu has left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m not one to shirk responsibility for my debts and mine, thankfully, is not overwhelming. AVH provided a service and I don’t think the hospital should let me skate on the payment. On top of that, I’ve found the medical staff there to be caring and competent.On the other hand, leaving patients hanging in limbo, with no clue as to what inopportune moment AVH will suddenly decide to collect on an age-old bill, is hugely irresponsible.It occurs to me AVH will be coming around next year, urging me to vote to renew the property tax that supports the hospital district. It’s a good thing they’re not asking me right now. And, if I’m still waiting for next June’s bill by election time next November, I know how I’ll be voting.Janet Urquhart just had a wad of cash surgically removed from her bank account. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sean Beckwith is taking advantage of his column space this week to inform the public of the Best in Jest.