Lab work becomes billing nightmare for Raleigh woman

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Hollie Aldridge explains her problem to Diane Wilson

What Hollie Aldridge thought would be a routine physical turned out to be a billing debacle, costing her hundreds of dollars she says she didn't owe.

In January of this year, Aldridge's physician sent her to Rex Hospital to get some bloodwork done as part of a check-up, as well as some additional x-rays. Aldridge said with her insurance plan, she's never had to pay for lab work before - yet when her bill came from UNC Health Care a month later, it was for nearly $2000 and she was responsible for $731 of it.

Aldridge said she called her insurance company to ask about the excessive amount and they told her it was an issue with how the visit had been coded in the system. Instead of labeling it as an office visit, they had coded it as an outpatient service. Aldridge said they told it her it would be a simple fix on UNC Health Care's part.

But Aldridge's repeatedly contacted the billing office to no avail.

"I never got to anyone," she said. Every time Aldridge called, she said she was given the automated message that they were experiencing high volumes of calls and to please leave a message.

"And then I would get a courtesy call back which would be animated asking me to call them back. So it was just a cycle of not ever getting a person," she said.

Over the next couple of months, Aldridge meticulously collected all the paperwork involved: the bills sent repeatedly to her house, the emails and letters she sent explaining the problem and what needed to be done to fix it.

In April, Aldridge said her physician's office also tried to contact the billing office on her behalf. Aldridge said the lady she spoke with was familiar with her problem, as several other patients had had similar difficulties. The doctor's office was unable to reach anyone who could resolve the issue, Aldridge said.

Aldridge then received a notice that the hospital was going to turn her bill over to a collection agency. Concerned about her credit, Aldridge said she then contacted the billing office again to set up a payment plan - and this time they did respond to her.

Even as Aldridge began to make the payments for a bill she did not owe, the frustrations weren't over.

"Even though I started making payments according to their payment plan, they still turned it over to a collection agency," she said. "So that was kind of my last straw."

That's when Aldridge contacted me and I got in touch with UNC REX Health Care on her behalf. And after that the billing office finally got back to Aldridge and told her they would give her a full refund.

Aldridge said the most frustrating thing was that she was unable to reach anybody to help her resolve the issue. That even her doctor's office couldn't reach anyone made it even worse.

"Every time I made the effort I included all the documentation and I wrote a letter explaining the problem," she said. "So it was very clear and it was a simple solution so yes I was very frustrated."

A rep for UNC REX Healthcare provided this statement:

At UNC REX Healthcare, we take great pride in providing excellent medical care and customer service to all of our patients, every day.
In Ms. Aldridge's situation her bill was accurate; however, unfortunately we did not communicate with her to our standards.
We have apologized to Ms. Aldridge and were able to resolve her billing issue.
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