One of the most visible benefits of the Affordable Care Act is that preventive services are covered with no out-of-pocket cost. So I was happy not to be charged a co-pay when I visited my doctor’s office for my routine physical in April. Not that $25 is a lot of money in comparison with my premium, but hey I’ll take it.
So I was unhappy when I started getting bills for a $25 co-pay from the doctor. I used the patient portal to send an administrative note in May, which was ignored. After a lot of back and forth with the office and my health plan the charge was finally dropped yesterday. But it makes me wonder just how much money the physician’s office and health plan spent to push this $25 around.
This is just one small example of the administrative costs imposed by the US’s convoluted healthcare financing system. Here’s the play by play from my case:
August 29, 2014
Dear [Physician Practice]:
I keep receiving bills for a $25 co-pay for 4/4/14 date of service. This was a routine physical. Under the ACA I am not supposed to be charged a co-pay for this preventive service, which I confirmed with BCBS MA. I sent a message about this months ago on the provider portal but have never received a reply, just more bills.
Please reverse the charge.
September 2, 2014
Good Morning Mr. Williams,
Thank you for your email inquiry regarding the balance of $25, for service date 4.4.14. Upon review of the account, I confirmed Dr. X billed a medical office visit in conjunction with the annual physical. Per the Affordable Care Act, you may still be required by your insurance company to pay a copayment if the physician treats you for any new medical issues discussed during the physical, or if she needs to change medication, order tests, or refer you to a specialist to deal with a pre-existing issue. I have attached the ACA for your review.
I have taken the liberty of asking our Medical Coder to review Dr. X’s medical notes for your visit on 4.4.14. She will determine if the documentation supports the charge of the office visit. If it does not, then and only then, will we reverse the charge. This may take up to 7 business days. I will email you as soon as I receive this back. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance at this time.
December 1, 2014
Good Morning Mr. Williams.
This email is in follow up to my email sent on 9/2/14, regarding the balance of $25, for the service date 4/4/14. Our medical coder determined Dr. X’s notes do not support the office visit. Therefore, we are refunding your insurance company and reversing the charge. You may disregard the statement. Please let me know if you have any further questions.