Thursday, September 13, 2012

dotting the i's and crossing the t's of lung cancer

While it might sound like a trick question for ‘are you smarter than a 5th grader’, after all there are no i’s or t’s in lung cancer, the reality is that so far surviving lung cancer means I have spent more time reviewing, auditing and haggling over bills than I have recovering.

dotting the i's and crossing the t's of lung cancer
As incredulous as it may seem on average billing ERRORS average 15%-20% across the board. Even more incredulously is apparently no one cares because medical costs are essentially arbitrary; there are no real definable costs. A test or procedure costs X if you have one insurance, costs y if you have another, or potentially even x+y if you have no insurance. Bottom line there is no ‘actual cost’ for a product or service.

How can I discuss line items on bills if I am not prepared with at least lay-knowledge of services, techniques, equipment, etc.
I have had to self-learn radiology, pathology, oncology, and surgical terminology, spending hours to days on line self-learning billing and coding and more.  

I have caught everything from an obvious double billing of a day’s hospitalization for a pneumothorax to billing for X-rays that were not even mine.

Years ago when such things used to surprise me I would record into my day planner how much time I spent on medical billing and insurance related issues caring for my wife with Multiple Sclerosis. 1,000 hours a year was not unusual. That is essentially an additional 125 working days a year ‘unpaid’ spend on phones and paperwork. I did it because I originally wanted to reduce the stress for her of living with MS but later progression of cognitive symptoms left her unable.

Surviving lung cancer for a few months already has shattered those numbers and I’m not caregiving for someone else, I am trying to recover and survive.

It’s not like 15% is a great chance of survival in the first place so why does the medical billing, coding, and insurance profession ramp up the stress with its carelessness to increase the obstacles.
by Patrick Leer
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @


  1. I’m sorry to hear about the situation you’re in, Patrick. Yes, medical billing errors are not unusual, especially if it was done on paper. The development of the electronic medical record management system aimed to solve that problem. It really did help reduce the occurrence of these errors, but they are still out there. I’m hoping that in a few more years, the medical field will have developed a universal system that everyone can follow and understand.

    1. Thanks Edwina "everyone can follow and understand" is exactly what is missing. I am not speaking just of patients but withing hospitals, labs, and often the subcontractors they use for billing ... it's all stuck somewhere in between paper and electronic and at times it resembles a philosophy of let's see what we can code this and/or bill this as and see what sticks. Maddening!