Since October, Vince Benedict was in a two- and then three-way tug of war with institutions that should be safeguarding his health. Instead, they were making him sick.
“I never cease to be amazed at how poorly American business treats its customers,” says Benedict, 78, of Collegeville, Montgomery County.
The Air Force veteran and retired broadcast executive thinks he deserves better than what he got after he was a customer of the emergency room at Phoenixville Hospital.
He was rushed to the Chester County hospital on Oct. 18, 2017. His blood pressure “was through the roof,” he tells me, because a doctor had given him a steroid shot for back pain, not realizing Benedict is a diabetic. Steroids can explode blood sugar levels.
Benedict spent two days in the hospital. He recovered and was discharged.
On Aug. 8, 2018, Benedict received a “final notice” from the hospital saying he owed $1,850.56 for treatment the previous October. The “final notice” — he says it was the first bill he had received — also threatened to turn his account over to a collection agency. That rattled him.
To protect his credit rating, “like a schmuck I paid the bill,” Benedict tells me, adding that he called the hospital for a statement of charges, but received only a list of meds.
Benedict then called the hospital and his insurance company, Humana. In a 53-minute conference call, neither the hospital nor the insurer acknowledged fault, but it was agreed the hospital would send a bill to Humana, which would pay it.
That did not happen. Benedict wisely kept copies of all correspondence among himself, Humana, and Phoenixville Hospital. “That was my military training,” he says, but frustration was making his blood pressure go up again. That’s when he turned to me for help.
To get this straightened out, I had to find out who had dropped the ball.
Citing privacy laws, a Humana spokesperson told me she couldn’t comment. But Benedict had a November 2018 letter from Humana telling him it informed the hospital that “your bill has been adjusted to $590. The correct co-payment.”
The math tells you Phoenixville owed Benedict a $1,260.56 refund, which would be the $1,850.56 he paid minus the $590 co-pay. He received that letter in early November, but by February, still no check.
“The bastards know they owe me the money, they admitted they owe me the money, and they don’t send me the money,” Benedict fumed. “It’s aggravating.”
Meanwhile, Humana submitted paperwork to Maximus Federal Services, an independent review contractor.
Surprise, surprise. In a letter dated Dec. 24, Maximus agreed with Humana, finding that Phoenixville Hospital owed Benedict $1,260.56.
I brought all this to Susan Graham, the hospital’s director of public relations.
“As soon as I saw October 2017” — the month Benedict was treated — “I knew what had happened,” Graham told me.
That was the month Tower Health took over Phoenixville Hospital from Community Health Systems, resulting in numerous system and operational snafus, Graham said
A check to repay Benedict was being cut even as we spoke, she told me.
A couple of days later, a happy Benedict held the long-delayed check.