Sass, accounts payable, and the one where I lose my cool

You may remember from this post when The Toddler got corn stuck in his nose.  For the second time, actually, but in short, we ended up taking him to Urgent Care to see if a medical professional could extract the corn in a medically professional way.  She couldn’t.  In fact, it was me who ended up getting him to blow the corn out of his nose using nothing more than bribery and the promise of milkshakes.  Who needs a doctor when you have your mother?

Present day Heather is scowling at past day Heather demanding to know why she didn’t go to medical school.

So, recently I received a bill for said services.  Part A of the bill was $210 for just showing up at Urgent Care.  Part B of the bill was over $600 for doctor’s services.  Doctor’s services which, may I reiterate, did not amount to anything more than, “Well, take him to the emergency room tomorrow unless he starts hemorrhaging.  Then take him tonight.”

Uh huh.

So, upon closer inspection of the bill, I noticed it hadn’t been run through my insurance.  Okay, well maybe that’s still pending.  I gave it a week or so and checked incoming claims on my insurance website.  Nothing.  So, that means it’s time to call.

Once upon a time, people called companies to resolve payment issues.  At some point, some genius decided he could improve on this practice and invented billing departments.  These billing departments were supposed to give us more expedient services.  Don’t bother the receptionist, when you can just talk to a billing specialist!  It’ll save you time!  It’s the best thing ever!!  Our lives are saved.

So I called this billing department.  Me, the professional individual who talks on the phone every day of my life and handles customer issues for upset customers.  Me, the person who is very nice on the phone, even when people are screaming at me.  Nice.  Everyday.

The billing specialist–we’ll call him a billing specialist–said he needed to confirm some security information to make sure I was A Legitimate Person and not just causing trouble.  I guess.  Anyway, I gave him my address.  My telephone number.  The 47 digit and three letter account number on the bill.  The Toddler’s birthdate.

There was a pause.  “Could he have another birthdate?”

No.  No, he cannot have another birthdate.

This is where things began to go wrong.  I pointed out that the patient in question is two and a half years old and I am his mother.  I provided my husband’s birthday, incase it was recorded under his name.  I gave him my birthday incase it was under my name because I’m the primary on the insurance.

He said, “Let me put you on hold.”

So, there I sat for almost ten minutes on hold, waiting while this fool billing specialist I assume went to speak to a supervisor.  For all I know, he went to the break room and got a bag of chips, because when he finally came back he said, “I’m sorry.  You haven’t provided us enough information to confirm you actually have any relationship with this patient.”

What.  What??  I said, “But I gave you my address, my phone number, and my account number.  I am his mother.”

He immediately got defensive.  “Ma’am, by law I cannot release any information to you about this patient.  We can’t confirm you have any business asking questions on this account.”

For starters, do not challenge my knowledge of HIPAA.  Don’t.  And second, it’s my kid.  I know his birthday.

“I said, fine, look maybe you can just help me out with this question.  I just need to find out what to do to get this resubmitted through my insurance.”

“Ma’am, I already told you, I can’t give you any information.  I can only answer general questions that are not related to the bill you’re referencing.”

Something in my brain went ping at this point and I started to get…well, at this point we’ll call it sassy.  I said, “Fine.  Fine, let’s say for example that a random person and her child show up for services at Urgent Care.  And let’s say, for example, the random person received a bill in the mail and the bill hadn’t been run through insurance first.  In this example, what would that person have to do to have it run back through insurance?”

“Well, I could do that over the phone.”

By the time I heard the words that escaped from my mouth, it was far too late to reel them back on in.  What I heard my mouth say was, “But only if I can prove I pushed the child out of my vagina, right.”

Silence.  Finally, he said, “Yeah.”

I said, “And what kind of documentation would you need to prove that the child is mine?  A copy of his birth certificate?”

He thought for a moment.  “Probably.”

Probably.  Probably?  A birth certificate filed with the state of Pennsylvania is not acceptable proof that I gave birth to the child and enough that I can get a billing question answered?  What do you need, the delivery report and confirmation of the time the umbilical cord was cut?  A picture of me holding him in the delivery room?  It’s a billing question.  It’s not an application for employment with the FBI.

I said, “You know what?  Thanks for nothing.”  I hung up the phone.

I stormed out of the conference room and relayed said information to my coworkers.  My friend Brian said, “Isn’t that your husband’s  name?”


“Are you talking about your husband?  Why would he have corn in his nose?”

I had to go back and explain that no, I was discussing my child and not my husband.  Two separate names here, buddy.  You’ve got the names confused.  He nodded and said, “I was wondering what kind of weird shit you people were into.  I can’t believe you said ‘vagina’ to someone.”

It’s a medical term.

My friend Court said, “You should just call the Urgent Care and see if they can help you.”

Excellent idea!  So, I called the Urgent Care we went to and the very helpful receptionist on the other end said, “Oh, I see they had his birth year wrong.  That’s no big deal.  I’ll fix it in the system and then I’ll call billing and get them to resubmit it to insurance.”  Five minutes later, she called back to confirm she’d done what she said and to disregard the bill.  They’d handle it.

That, friends, is customer service.  “Press 4 for billing questions” is not building a better mouse trap.  It’s pissing off perfectly rational people and making them say “vagina” in anger.  Lashing out irrationally and dropping the V bomb.  Move over F bomb.  The V bomb just leveled the playing field.

He was born at 7:00pm, by the way.  And because I was only in labor for four hours, I look ravishing in the delivery room picture.  So there.



  1. I love this story! It made me laugh, even though it’s Wednesday. Besides, what’s wrong with the V word? A friend once said she knew a blind man who was always frustrated because people asked him the name of his guide dog and when he gave it, they would always talk to the dog using the name. She told him he should say the dog’s name was Vagina. He lived happily ever after.

  2. My friend Brian said, “Isn’t that your husband’s name?”

    I am either stupid or unconsciously clever, because my reaction when I read this was “Her husband’s name is Thanks For Nothing? What the hell were his parents thinking?”

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