Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Isn't it ironic....dontcha think?

Well, that settles it.

OHSU was not bluffing--apparently, in Oregon, a hospital can send you to collections even if you've been making a payment every month, just because they've decided that it will take you too long to pay off your hospital balance.

We got a letter yesterday from the Oregon Department of Revenue that they now hold one of my three accounts from my skin cancer surgery at OHSU. I called to set up a payment plan yesterday. It's kind of funny, because their automated system basically says, "If your account is with traffic fines, press 1. If your account is with court fees, press 2. If your account is for jail fees, press 3. If your account is from OHSU, press 4." (You'll notice that there are no other hospitals on this list...)

Anyway, once I finally reached a person, I explained that we'd always paid on time every month, but that OHSU had turned it over  because they decided it would take too long to pay off. I said "Here's what I can afford to pay each month. Our income varies, so on months when we can afford to pay more, I'll happily send it." The nice (sarcasm font) lady at the department of revenue told me that they don't really care what we can afford to pay, that my minimum payment each month is X. I asked her what would happen if we couldn't afford to pay X, and she said she can't tell me that until November 5th, when our first payment is due. She said that they don't have any sort of financial paperwork to fill out, and that they really don't care what your income and bills look like. You pay their minimum payment or you don't, and if you don't....well, I don't know because she wouldn't tell me.

She then proceeded to tell me that my account will probably be paid off much more quickly than I expect anyway, as they'll just withhold all of our tax returns until it is paid off.

I kind of wanted to scream at her.  I know she's just doing her job. I know that technically, that's fair and that the doctors and hospitals deserve to be paid for their time. I know that's probably what we would have done with a tax return anyway.  But can I just say that it sucks? Because it does. It sucks. It sucks that no one seems to care that there's a person or a family on the other end of the line...who is just trying to balance paying for this unexpected surgery with all their other obligations...not to mention just life. It sucks that the house refinance that we were so excited about probably closing on in November? Probably won't happen now because of this. The really ironic and funny thing about all this? If we were/are able to refinance in November as we were (and still are) hoping, the entire OHSU bill would have been paid off at that point anyway.

I feel a little like I'm living in an Alanis Morisette song.


It sucks that this is something that's heavy on my heart and mind lately, but I'm not even sure that I should blog about it because I'll probably get snarky anonymous comments about us and our money, and how maybe we shouldn't be having another baby if we're so poor, or maybe I shouldn't be buying leggings or mums (which, just for the record, I haven't) if we still have hospital debt. Or how maybe I should just get a job and shut up.

I don't know if I should blog about it because it will make family and friends worry about us...and really, I'm sure it'll be okay. It's just irritating. It just sucks. I'm just venting because we're trying to do the best that we can and to live on a budget and be fiscally responsible...all while watching people we know totally play the system and get rewarded for it. All while feeling like the people on the other end of the phone line do not care about us in the slightest. It's frustrating. And irritating. And I just want to stomp my feet and scream.

And then? There are times where all you can do is laugh. Like last night, when we were working on choosing songs for a Sunday service later in October, and we pulled up the Gospel reading for that particular Sunday. Anyone want to guess what the reading was? I'll tell you. Mark 10:23-31. The first sentence?

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard is it for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

And I know what that passage is all about, and I know what it really means and how it's often misinterpreted and misapplied, but seriously, after a day like I had yesterday...being so irritated and so stressed about all things money, how can you not just laugh when that comes across the table?


  1. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, found it on the DR board. I’ve never commented and I don’t really care if you post this comment anyway. But I do hope you read it.

    I can’t say I get what you’re doing for one because I’m not religious and for two because it’s not what I would do. However, what I can do is try to understand. What I get is that you want to stay at home with your girls while they’re young. But what happens after that? Are you planning on going back to work?

    For me, my priorities are simple. Take care of my family. Ensure they have a good life and they don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made. This may mean something different to you. For us, we’re choosing for things to be more difficult now so that the reward (this reward is not necessarily monetary) is greater later. My DH has a very good job where he works long hours. He hates this job. He is also in nursing school full time. He works 2pm-5am. Sleeps for 5 hours. Has 4 hours for homework and is back to work. I don’t work but I am also in nursing school full time. We have a 7 month old. Things are crazy. I wish we had more time for family. I will be getting a job in May so that we can pay down our car loans and get experience for grad school. DS will go in to daycare.

    From all your posts on money problems I honestly don’t understand why you don’t work. I try but I don’t. I’m not going to attack you because it’s not necessary. You have your reasons. But you’re stressed, probably even more than you let on. Your money problems probably even keep you up at night sometimes.

    I’m an atheist so your bible quotes don’t mean anything to me, but I do know there is a wide range of incomes. You don’t have to be “rich” but you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re going to have enough money for groceries at the end of the month. Even if you had to work part-time or full-time and put the girls in daycare, you would still be bringing home money that would pay off your debt and increase your savings.

    I know this may seem like it’s only about money. It’s not. But what you seem to be doing is putting your short-term wants (staying home with your girls) ahead of your long-term needs (providing for you girls’ needs and your own retirement). From the small glimpse into your life, it seems as if you aren’t thinking and planning ahead.

    Good luck,

    1. Interesting comment E. It's been a long time since I talked about this, but the reason that we decided to have me stay at home instead of continue working after L was born was that after factoring in daycare, gas, and all the other incidentals associated with working full-time, I would have been taking home $100 a month. I make more than that doing photography on the side (which I'm able to do even more frequently now that I'm not working full-time), so it was really a no-brainer to have me stay at home with Lizzy instead of sending her to daycare.

      I don't actually think that staying at home is the "only" way to raise children, or even the "right" thing to do. I'm not opposed to working again if a situation presented itself that made sense and felt worthwhile for our family. So far, it hasn't (Justin also works long hours and goes to school, so it isn't as simple as just suggesting that we work opposite shifts).

      I do wholeheartedly disagree that we're putting short-term wants over long term needs...especially that we're not providing for our girls' needs, as you stated in your last paragraph. If anything, I think we daily and regularly sacrifice wants in favor of needs, especially when it comes to our kiddos.

    2. Well obviously you and your husband decide what is best for your family but own it. Accept it. Defend it. Know that you’ve thought it through over and over until you’ve decided it’s what you need to do. Just because I don’t get it and it’s not what I would/could do for my family, doesn’t mean I know what you need to do for yours.

      Sorry for the confusion but I wasn’t talking about your girls’ material needs. And I understand that you’re sacrificing “enough” as it is now. Do you have a plan for things to change? You worry about “snarky” comments but maybe if you wrote about how you plan for things to change, maybe people wouldn’t get so snarky towards your writing. I’m sorry you feel attacked.

      Once again, you don’t have to publish this. That is up to you.

    3. I appreciate your response--it is so hard to know all the intricacies of any given family's financial situation based on what we blog about online...you're totally right that what we decide for us may not be the best decision for your family based on 100 little factors that I'd have no way of knowing. And really, I suppose that's exactly what sometimes bothers me most about snarky anonymous comments.

      I sometimes feel like because I have talked about our financial situation and that we are on a tight budget (which I don't actually think is always a bad thing for us), I always have to couch everything I say on here--like, if I mention getting coffee, I'll get a snarky anonymous comment saying 'Should you REALLY be buying coffee? Couldn't you have paid that extra $3.75 to the hospital bill?' When in reality, it was a gift card that I'd saved from my birthday. It just gets old sometimes. And maybe I just need to get over it, and realize that it comes with the territory of talking about money.

      I may reference our budget a lot...it's a big part of our lives. And it's tight. Every penny has a job. But it's not all bad. It's the life we chose. And for us, we are actually doing a lot better, wasting a lot less, and making a lot more progress towards our goals working on a strict budget than we were when we had two incomes, no kids, no budget, and were able to buy whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. Skin cancer threw a wrench into things that no amount of emergency fund or medical fund could cover...and that just plum sucks sometimes, and today I just needed to vent about it a little.

  2. That's interesting it went to the DOR. I guess I assumed it would be an independent collections company?

    I completely understand how you feel when you say you're trying to do the right thing and getting nowhere while the people who aren't are getting rewarded. Different situation, but basically I've been there, done that. They don't care if you're trying to do the right thing or if you've done everything they've asked you to do and they certainly don't care what you can and can't afford. I've followed your blog for a few years now and you're smart and responsible. Personally, I'd make the payment amount you can make and see what happens. What are they going to do... send your money back? I'm sure some people will think that's irresponsible, but sometimes you just have to draw the line and say screw it. And it's not to spite them, but because sometimes there is just no room to give. You can't get blood out of a turnip :)

  3. That is frustrating that the people on the phone can't/won't try to see the whole picture. Also, I especially understand your frustration at working to do your best and budget, etc. when others just play the system. I'm sorry that you had to have all that yesterday :(

    Also.. I 100% believe that God has a sense of humor. That verse/context cracked me up.

  4. It does suck, Meredith. It sucks that they won't accept your payment and it sucks that you have to defend every move you make when really, all you want is to vent.

    I don't even feel that you working full time would solve the problem, but I'll say this anyway: staying home with my kids is more important to Chad and I than anything else. We would make SERIOUS sacrifices (as in, one car, sell our house, etc) before we would consider me going back to work. So regardless of why you do or don't work, I support you 100%. It's the decision you've made for your family and you are doing what you can to make it work.

    I appreciate your openness with your budget and how you guys make it work for you...I hope the negative comments don't deter you from continuing to share that.

  5. Oh Meredith, this sucks. I'm so sorry you're in this situation.

  6. No advice for you really, but yes, it totally sucks. J was going through something similar when he and I first met and it was not fun. You'd think with as many accounts in default that there may be a company would rather get something rather than nothing. What's even more funny is that by turning the debt over the hospital will probably receive less in the end. I'm sorry you guys are having to go through this.

  7. This sucks in every way you look at it! I am so sorry you're going through it.

    This decision for you to stay home and raise your kids is the one YOU AND JUSTIN have chose, and that's the only thing that matters. Hang in there, keep pushing through, and know that your friends are here praying and supporting you through it all.


  8. Grrrr, I'm so mad on your behalf. I mean, come on people! This is just not fair. When we had an $800 hospital bill after Landon was born I was told as long as we were making a payment each month that there was no harm. So why can't your hospital do the same? So grrrr, growling about it right with you.

  9. For the record, yesterday I was tooooootally kidding about you buying leggings.

    It's ridiculous that you're being sent to collections. Have you thought about paying it off with a low-interest credit card? I know that's terrifying to some people, but you'd be gaining a small amount of interest instead of getting sent to collections.

    <3 Love you. Think you're wonderful. Just FYI.

  10. I just wanted to say how sorry I am that this is happening, Meredith. Just make your payment and see what happens. I don't see how making any payment is not enough. Would they rather you not pay at all?

  11. This really blows, Meredith. And your tales of speaking to people on the phone who simply can't see a real person on the other end of the line reminds me a lot of my miscarriage ordeal with stupid insurance people. I swear that took years off my life and it could have been so simple if one of the staff could have just thought beyond their computer prompts. Grrrrr, I'm getting worked up just thinking about it.

    Hang in there. I wish you didn't have to deal with judgement on the 'stay at home vs work outside the home' choice you've made. It's difficult no matter which choice we make, and I hate that it's such a heated topic in the blog world. Hugs!

  12. This sucks! I am sorry. One thing that I hope is good for you - many state agencies do not report to the credit bureaus. This may be the case with your account going to collections... many hospitals do it just so they don't have to handle it anymore.

    Being judged sucks even worse. So many people assuem that since my husband is a pediatrician that we have so much money. Since he is still a resident/fellow he doesn't make what people would think as "doctor money". I made more than him. Top it off he has almost 300K in student loans just from medical school. We will be on a budget until we are retired.

    Only you know what is best for your family. Keep your head up.

  13. I appreciate your honesty and openness. Sometimes it does just suck on one side of the coin. Vent away.

  14. Just wanted to say I am so sorry you have to deal with this, so unfair!! You are doing your best and what is best for your family. It will all work out'

  15. I have read your blog since your pregnancy with Lizzy and I KNOW you are doing what you know is best for your family. Put your faith in God, and you KNOW he will provide. :) Love you friend!

  16. Meredith,

    I am a long time reader (came through other blogs a while ago) but have never commented. I am so sorry to hear this story of your experience with the hospital. I actually work in health care and one of the issues we focus on is making sure patients have access to information about their hospital's finance assistance policy. I don't know if you've asked OHSU about whether or not you and your family qualify, but I wanted to share some information just in case: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/health/for-patients-visitors/billing-insurance/upload/financial_asst_policy.pdf

    I agree that this is so unfair, especially when you are doing your best to pay down the bill. Yours is a powerful story about why our health care system desperately needs change that empowers and protects patients, instead of making them feel frustrated and vulnerable.


    1. Lucy, thanks so much for your comment...what a sweet thing!

      I did fill out the financial paperwork at OHSU, and they did reduce our bill...unfortunately, with all that I had done, even reducing the bill by a percentage still left us with a pretty significant balance...not to mention the bills from the hospital, doctors, biopsy, etc down here that spurred the initial diagnosis...we're just doing the best we can to balance it all!

  17. You know *exactly* what I would say to such anonymous commentators, so I will refrain from the foul language, and instead offer a virtual pat on the shoulder, some Ben & Jerry's with a soft blanket, and then do all the house work. I hope things get better/OHSU collections blows up in a freak accident. <3


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