Man Receives $44 Million Hospital Bill For $300 Worth Of Treatments

The good news is that Alexis isn’t going to have to pay the $44 million bill he received after a hospital treated his pneumonia. The bad is that hundreds of others also received ridiculous bills after a billing company made the teensy error of entering the invoice numbers into the amount due box. Woopsies.

The New York Daily News talked to Alexis, an unemployed doorman, who’d already had a bunch of bills a few months ago from the hospital for treating his pneumonia. But the most recent one for $44,776,587 for outpatient services was the biggest of them all.

“I almost had an asthma attack,” he told the paper, as he should’ve been paying only about $300. Turns out he was one of hundreds with overblown bills, as Alexis found out when he called the billing company, PHY Services.

They say the subcontractor that prints the bills was the culprit behind the number switcheroo.

“We are sending an apology letter to everyone who received it,” said PHY Services rep Ricardo Paul.

They advise anyone who received a statement from them to ignore it, as they’ll get a new one soon. But really, what else would you do — write a check for a few million and send it off?

$44 million bill from Bronx-Lebanon Hospital [New York Daily News]

Comments

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  1. Sarek says:

    Test our program changes? We don’t need no stinkin’ testing!

  2. John says:

    Quick … submit the bill to the Flexible Spending Account. At least you won’t have any money left on the table by years end!

  3. Coffee says:

    The sad thing is that if they had a different invoice labeling system and the due amount was only $10,456-ABQ45, he probably would have tried to work out a payment plan.

  4. JeremieNX says:

    And this is why I hate it when companies outsource or contract out core functions – and yes – billing is a core function.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Why exactly do you believe that a mistake like this would never happen without the outsourcing?

      • aaron8301 says:

        If you want something done right, do it yourself. No, it wouldn’t ensure it got done correctly, but it would make it more likely.

  5. Kaleey says:

    data integrity and proofing, people. 1 of 4 things happened here:

    1. PHY Services or the people supplying the data screwed up the data file (no matter who they actaully blame). Fail PHY.
    2. The printing company was new and hadn’t set up the bills correctly, and PHY missed it when proofing. Fail subcontractor and fail PHY.
    3. The printing company made a change to the letter, and PHY missed it when proofing. Fail subcontractor and fail PHY.
    4. the printing company just decided to “make a change” without customer approval. Highly unlikely, but Fail subcontractor.

    My money is on PHY screwing up their data – while subcontractors (even printing companies) make mistakes, the customer should be approving any changes or new letter setups with test data before they go live. That’s how we do it here, anyway.

    • Naeva says:

      I had just typed out and nearly posted exactly what you mentioned. The same thing goes on here, and at almost every incident, it’s the client changing data that throws everything off. I wouldn’t be so quick to blame the subcontractor, most of what we do, (here anyway) is automated.

  6. Gman says:

    I don’t see a programming error. Clearly the man should have checked the bill with the billing company before it was mailed to him. It is his own fault for not being proactive enough to look through company records, find the contract for the billing company, divulge his invoice number and ask what they will be sending him before he got the bill.

    Well that or the doctor he saw reallly wanted a new home.

    [/sarcasm]

  7. Cat says:

    Someday, all hospital bills will be this big.

  8. Vox Republica says:

    Now if we had tort reform, that accidental bill would have only been for $39,815,226.

  9. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    That sounds like Kohl’s pricing.

    Retail Price: $44,776,587
    Kohl’s Price: $300

    • Don't Bother says:

      I’ve noticed that Macy’s has also started to use this method of inflating “retail prices” to make what you’re buying look like a deal. Or they have been all along, and I’ve been woefully stupid to it up to this point.

      • BorkBorkBork says:

        Last time I shopped at Kohls for a Christmas gift, the cashier was like “You saved $30 dollars today!”

        Suuuure, lady. What idiot would buy these pajama pants for $45?

    • cybrczch says:

      And for every $1 million you spend, you get $10 of Kohl’s Cash

    • framitz says:

      “Kohl’s Price: $300″
      Retail value $00.32

  10. Difdi says:

    If the company transposed the amount of the bill with the account number, would it even be possible to pay the bill? Would a payment to account #300 simply fail, be returned as unknown, or would the money just vanish into the payment processing company never to be seen again?

  11. longfeltwant says:

    Um, wow, way to completely misrepresent the story. The guy received $40,000 worth of care, not $300 worth. The $300 is his out-of-pocket cost, after insurance pays the rest.

    Headline fail! Please correct this story, lest you be one more reason people can’t trust the news!

  12. cameronl says:

    At a non-profit I worked at, I once entered a zip code (starting with an 8) into the amount box for a donation. Damn credit card went through with a charge of $89,000+. It was part of a huge batch, so the batch total didn’t raise a red flag. Luckily, I got a call from the bank questioning it (after it went through). I quickly issued a credit and called the donor to let her know what happened before she got her statement.

  13. Emperor Norton I says:

    Alexis is an idiot!
    “”I almost had an asthma attack,” he told the paper, as he should’ve been paying only about $300.”

    Really?
    You don’t have the brains to figure out it was a mistake & just laugh about it?
    Moron!

    • StarKillerX says:

      But you can’t sue if you laughed it off, but man if you “almost had an asthma attack” there’s got to be some way to get money out of the deal!

    • Darsynia says:

      Yeah, I’m sure we made fun of the people who BofA tried to foreclose on without holding their mortgage, too. LAUGH IT OFF, IDIOTS!

      In all seriousness, even WITH mistakes like this, people still have to usually go through the hassle of fixing it, and the likelihood even with a mistake that it might show up with a creditor is not negligible.

  14. emyaeak says:

    I used to work in law firm billing, and part of my job was posting payments/charges to client’s accounts. We’d take a huge list of checks received, or a FedEx invoice, and manually enter each account number, reference number, and amount. We posted thousands of such entries each month. Mistakes happen. We also manually reviewed the bills so that most posting errors wouldn’t actually get sent out. Came across a bill with a FedEx charge of $14,235.10 for Account #14235.1… yikes, right? Sometimes the mistakes were smaller (entering $42 instead of $24), and therefore not so noticable, and even the client didn’t think to question, so they’d send a check in for the whole amount, which is deposited without looking at the charges, and when THAT payment is posted, the whole situation becomes clear… now you owe the customer a refund, which involves telling your supervisor, telling the lawyer handling that client’s case, and the head of the company (all were involved in any refund case, regardless of reason)… suddenly, you don’t see a problem anymore and just let it lie. Sad, but true.

  15. vliam says:

    Ok! Ok! I must have, I must have put a decimal point in the wrong place
    or something. S**t. I always do that. I always mess up some mundane
    detail.

  16. kc2idf says:

    $44 Million? Smithers, get me my wallet!

  17. Ayla says:

    In what universe is a hospital visit only $300? Just to walk into our local hospital is $500, see a doc, another $200 and that’s before they do anything. My son’s pneumonia treatment earned us a bill of $2,000 a few years ago and that was for a chest x-ray and some Tylenol. Holy moly.

  18. Jane_Gage says:

    Wait. A dude named Alexis?

  19. AngryK9 says:

    It’s a trick designed to get the hospital some more money. People see the total on the bill, then have a heart attack and have to go back to the hospital…

  20. NumberSix says:

    I’m not sure why this would induce any amount of panic. It’s so obviously wrong it would actually be kinda funny.

  21. StevePierce says:

    Reason number 649 why you should never have automatic bill pay on any accounts.

  22. framitz says:

    When in doubt. demand a detailed itemized statement before paying. This simple action has saved me thousands of dollars on medical bills.

    And if you have double coverage make sure they collect from all insurance before billing for the balance.

    More thousands saved.

    I ended up paying about $100 from an original bill of over $250,000 once insurance companies were properly billed and payed their part.

  23. BigDragon says:

    I love the shifting of blame in this story. It’s all the no-name subcontractor’s fault.

    I recently got a rather large medical bill. Seems my insurance didn’t want to pay for an ENT to put their little snake camera up my nose. They charged my insurance well in excess of $300 for a 10 second look. When I called to complain they kept saying it was a “procedure” and that “there’s nothing we can do” as predicted. Spraying a little numbing stuff in my nose and then looking around for 5 seconds in each nostril is not surgery and it is not worthy of in excess of $300. Had I known that at the time I would have told that doctor to stay up and look around good and hard in there. I want my money’s worth! As it stands, I got ripped off and now both the doctor and the insurance want me to clean up the mess. What should I do?