The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Beth Israel Patients Slammed With Repeat Bills

By Amy Zimmer | February 1, 2011 10:11pm | Updated on February 2, 2011 6:23am
Elsa Rensaa with her stack of bills she claims were for services she'd already paid for.
Elsa Rensaa with her stack of bills she claims were for services she'd already paid for.
View Full Caption
courtesy of Clatyon Patterson

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — Some Beth Israel Medical Center patients say they've been innundated with bills for services they've already paid for.

East Village artist and blogger Suzannah B. Troy says she's been perplexed by the bills she's received from Beth Israel for the past three months, the most recent one for $33.10.

She had paid her requisite $50 co-pay on her October visit to that hospital for a broken toe, but then the bills — which didn't list the services rendered — started coming, she told DNAinfo.

She began telling friends about it, and they told her they had similar billing experiences with Beth Israel. So, she blogged about it, and a few more people came forward with stories of bills, mainly for $20 or $30.

An image from Suzannah Troy's video posting about her Beth Israel bills.
An image from Suzannah Troy's video posting about her Beth Israel bills.
View Full Caption

Troy, who wondered if the hospital's billing system was incompetent or if some scam was at work, logged a complaint with the Attorney General's office. Beth Israel officials emphatically denied such accusations but said errors sometimes do happen.

When Troy got her first bill in November and called to complain, the customer service representative told her to ignore it. "He said, 'You won't get it again,'" Troy recounted. Then two more bills came.

"Think of people who are weak or elderly or worn out or for who English is their second language," she said. "They're not going to challenge this. Just to stay on the phone for a long time with [customer service] takes a lot of energy."

Clayton Patterson and Elsa Rensaa, Lower East Side artists, received bills for services they already paid for — his for a broken ankle, hers for a broken wrist.

Rensaa, who had been getting physical therapy for her wrist, has a stack of bills nearly two-inches thick, and has also been getting bills this year for a rotator cuff surgery more than three years ago at the now-defunct Beth Israel North, that her insurance had covered.

She claimed she's been hung up on by customer services and said last week she got two phone calls from a collection agency.

"It's just bizarre," Rensaa said. "They don't tell you what the bill is for half the time. Getting bills that you don't intend to pay because you've already paid them is harassment."

Patterson added, "There's definitely something that doesn't make sense. It may even be bureaucracy and might not be stealing. Who knows? But I know there's something wrong here."

Michelle Leone, senior vice president of revenue cycle operations at Continuum Health Partners, said, "I can assure you that Beth Israel, and all Continuum Hospitals, adhere to strict compliance policies and are subject to internal and external audits from government and other payors."

Mistakes could happen with the more than 1.5 million claims to over 1,000 insurance carriers Beth Israel generated per year, she admitted.

"Each of those insurers process the claims and sends payments to us and indicates the patient's balance due," she said. "Do errors happen? Yes, sometimes on our side and sometimes on the insurers' side."

Leone said the hospital always encouraged patients "to call and enquire if something does not seem right to them."