By Michael Hooper
In August 2013, my daughter went to the emergency room at St. Francis Health Center with terrible pains in her lower back. She was in the waiting room at the ER with some friends from high school when I arrived. When doctors finally examined my daughter, they discovered she was moving a kidney stone, this was causing all of her pain.
About three hours after arriving, my daughter and I were sent home. Medical staff gave us the name of a St. Francis doctor who could treat her kidney stone issue. She was treated very well. Her doctor advised her to drink gallons of lemonade and water. She moved the kidney stone and never had another kidney stone moving through her since then.
My insurance deductible was $6,000 per person. I received a bill for $4,248 from SCL Health. I complained to SCL Health that I was overcharged $2,275 for a CT scan that was not needed. But SCL officials refused to change the bill. I talked to a patient representative. Then a director examined my daughter’s case file and wrote a letter to me saying he had reviewed the care given to my daughter and agreed we were overcharged. “We understand your concerns and will make an adjustment on your account of removing $2,275.48 for the CT scan," he wrote.
Wonderful. So then I sent a copy of his letter to SCL Health, asking them to lower my bill. You need to remove $2,275 from my bill, but the person I talked to said she was not authorized to remove that charge. Why not, I have proof that I was overcharged. I said if you don’t lower my bill I am going to the Kansas Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division with a complaint. She still refused. I wrote a letter to the AG, which wrote a letter to SCL Health asking for an explanation. Suddenly, SCL Health officials called me and got very cooperative and apologetic and lowered my bill.
But that is not the end of the story. I had agreed from the very beginning of the process to send $200 per month to SCL Health until my bill was paid off. SCL Health cashed one of my $200 checks but did not credit my account. Then I received a delinquent notice from SCL Health saying I missed a payment. The letter said, “If your account is not brought current by your next payment due date, the payment plan may be deactivated and your account is at risk of placement with a collection agency.”
So I called SCL Health to get this straightened out. I said I had actually sent a check, SCL Health cashed it but did not credit my account. An SCL Health official said I must prove I made payment by getting a bank statement or cancelled check. You mean, I am responsible for correcting your mistake? Yes, she said. So I went to the bank and gathered up evidence showing SCL Health took $200 from my account. This actually happened a second time while I was trying to pay off the debt.
In the end, I paid off the bill. The St. Francis medical professionals who treated my daughter did a fabulous job. But without the Kansas Attorney General, I would have been screwed by SCL Health. I finally wrote a letter to the AG thanking them for being there, and that the problem was resolved.
During this entire time, I was lucky to be self-employed with flexible hours so I could devote many hours per day to solving this financial crisis with my daughter’s stay in the Emergency Room at St. Francis. Just imagine, though, a person going through this process without the knowledge of the Consumer Protection Act and The Kansas Attorney General?
I’ve heard from several employees of St. Francis saying the billing problems with SCL Health in Denver continue. One person said his wife had a baby but didn’t get a bill for the medical services for four months. If bills go out too late, payments are delayed and this hurts cash-flow. The faster bills go out, the sooner you get money in the bank.
St. Francis paid $42.7 million in System Allocation expense to SCL Health in 2015. From 2013 to 2015, St. Francis paid a total of $102 million for services like billing and payroll and IT. That seems like an awful lot of money being paid to SCL Health for sub par services.