Harmonious Homestead
Connecting Farms & Families In Central Ohio since 2010


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Powerless & A PSA

derecho cell phone picture Thanks to the derecho that swept through central Ohio, our home has been powerless since 4:30 pm Friday. Powerless is:

  • no air conditioning or fans for sleeping in nights with 75 degree low temperatures
  • refrigerated foods moved to one relative's house, frozen foods at another's
  • retreating to air conditioned spaces in the heat of the day and later for overnights
  • taking laundry to your parents' like you are in college again
  • rejecting showing requests because there are no lights to show off your house for sale
  • making frequent trips home to take care of animals as confused as we are
  • trying to complete work for social media clients on an unfamiliar computer
  • rationing cell phone battery life
  • hearing that 90% of houses will have power restored by Saturday (still four days away!)
  • hoping you are not the 10% left behind, but maybe in a group that will be restored sooner
  • realizing just how dependent you are on the grid
  • being ever more committed to making the next house more energy independent
  • still feeling lucky that your home and family are only annoyed and not physically damaged

Needless to say, blogging is not at the top of my list right now. If you miss me, hop over to the guest post I wrote for Dollar Stretcher blog about Homesteading for Savings. Columbus Parent also just published an article about Lil and I and our recipe for real food power bars. And now for something from Alex, a public service announcement for those living in Ohio.

Ohio Health Scam?

"It was quite by coincidence that I had my own little health care run-in on the day last week when the Supreme Court decision on health care was just about the only thing in the news.  As some of you may recall, I had surgery in April to remove a piece of a metal axe lodged in my thigh.  As with any major medial procedure, the bills and adjustments have been slowly trickling in.  Everything has looked reasonable until we received a very strange bill last week.  The bill was for $406.25 from Ohio Health (Grant/Riverside Labs). The bill stated that Ohio Health had contracted with Patient Financial Services (PFS) to service this bill.

Ohio Health is the normal company that processes my bloodwork taken during my annual physical exam, so at first I wasn't overly concerned.  This year my annual physical came about six weeks before my surgery, which required me to come back to the doctor for an additional pre-admission blood panel. I assumed that this bill was a result of two diagnostic tests being performed in close succession.

Imagine my surprise when I called PFS and discovered that this bill was for services rendered January 25, 2010.  According to the woman I talked to, Ohio Health had audited its billing systems and determined that this balance was outstanding.  I have vague memories of problems with the bloodwork being paid for at that time, but I had contacted my doctor and assumed everything was taken care of as I heard nothing further on the matter.

As it turns out, my doctor's office diligently corrected their error, but Ohio Health never bothered to fix their mistake in the coding for services that were submitted to my insurance company for payment. As could be expected, my insurance denied the claim and Ohio Health was never paid.  Furthermore, my insurance company stated that as more than sixth months had passed since the claim was denied, no appeal would be accepted, and any bills were now my responsibility.  Needless to say, I was more than a little bit upset.

My next step was to call PFS back, and this is were things took a turn for the bizarre. I happened to be connected with the same agent I talked to the first time.  I explained to her what my insurance company said, and she replied instantly and in a most shocking manner.  Without missing a beat, she instantly said, "Ok, we'll simply close out this account for you."  Somewhat in shock, I thanked her and hung up the phone.

After having a few moments to reflect on things, I cam to the conclusion that this must be a gigantic scam.  I have no way of knowing what the relationship is between Ohio Health and PFS, but I would guess they have either contracted them to service debt or outright sold outstanding balances to them for pennies on the dollar.  The strategy here seems to be one of hoping that most people won't question things and will simply pay the amount in question.  Barring that, they likely hope that the insured will be able to convince their insurance companies to pay.  As a final recourse, they simply cancel the bill.

Why do I think that this is the case?  Firstly, no information on the date of service, services rendered or anything else you might expect to see was present on the bill.  Additionally, a third party was managing the collection, not Ohio Health themselves. Finally there is the fact that the entire issue was closed so quickly.  The woman I was speaking with didn't have to consult a supervisor or go through any further steps, but obviously had the authority (and I would guess standing instructions) to simply close the account.

This whole situation strikes me as extremely shady and dishonest on the part of Ohio Health.  They may have contracted with an outside company to do their dirty-work for them, but their name is featured prominently on the bill, and they bear the responsibility for the actions of their contractor.  This entire process is rigged to prey on the fear and uncertainty of people who might not have the savvy to navigate our convoluted health care system.  Honestly, if the amount in question had been smaller, I might have simply opted to pay it instead of wasting my time and arguing the issue.

The lesson seems to be that Ohio Health customers need to be vigilant. I know I will be more cautious than ever about double-checking what companies say I owe." -Alex  

We genuinely hope that you all are safe and we can return to regular activities and writing soon.