I just finished interviewing the head of a big insurance plan, who told me among other things how much better it will be when we carry around troves of our medical data on our cell phones. I hope she’s right, but the next call I made was to a collection agency that was after me for a payment on routine lab work I had done in June 2012.
I had never seen the bill. It was from a medical center that I don’t visit, but processes lab work for my doctor. After I got off the phone with the collection center, I called the medical center’s accounts payable office. It told me it had sent bills to an address I had moved from almost two years earlier. I was told it had tried to call me “several several several times” at the phone number I had then, a phone number that was no longer mine. Accounts Payable didn’t understand how I could not have known it was trying to find me. “Didn’t you get the statement of benefits?”
Of course. I expected to also get a bill. Accounts Payable explained that the doctor’s office would not give it my new address. Why one of those phone calls to my old number couldn’t go to the doctor’s office to ask it to call me and contact Accounts Payable, I don’t understand.
Another phone call with the collections agency reminded me that this situation mirrors one that happened almost 13 years ago. I had changed jobs and one day about five months later got a call from a collection agency for American Express, after me for a last bill for my former corporate card. Seems no one at my previous job thought to tell me it had come.
That collections agent told me I’d be hit with a $59 charge unless I paid right then, over the phone. So I did. Five years later, applying for a mortgage, it turned out that he hit me with the $59 charge anyway, and never bothered to bill me for it. It was still on my credit report. I ignore every American Express offer I get. It needs to hire a better collection agency.
We can’t get little data right. Big data makes me nervous.