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?