I have recently taken over our family bill paying operation — yuk! I am 76 going on 77 and having once taught a course in geriatric psychology, I am aware that as we grow into these years we are slower to recollect details that once were fresh in mind.

What has bothered me particularly is the discovery of more than half a dozen erroneous billings amounting to a number of thousands of dollars. One batch particularly was being pursued by a collection agency which was harassing us with phone calls at all hours of all days. I was finally able to pry loose the source of these charges and discovered that there were none such — our medical services are covered by Medicare and a secondary insurance that completes the payment. What had obviously happened was that the original service — one of our local hospitals had failed to notify the bill collecting agency that we owed nothing. The same hospital had made another error as well of hundreds of dollars. And another medical service had charged for covered things for which the insurance had not yet arrived. I paid the first of these and doubt that I will see the repayment that I requested.

I mention all of this because I fear that spouses and estates are being cheated out there. There were so many errors with us that there must be a pattern of errors at work as the bill collecting departments mess things up. This was certainly true when we had to battle again and again to get our medical insurance companies to pay what we were owed.

Health reform of such operations we certainly need — particularly for those of us who are aging and have more bills with which to contend. I have found something of the same problem with medications — not our national agencies, but local pharmacies that charge vastly different amounts for the same medication.

Beware!

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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