Real Life Imitates Art

Last week, as the Democrats National political convention droned on, building toward former Vice President Biden’s acceptance speech, I read a joke on the Internet that said President Trump is such a narcissist that he’ll speak every night at this week’s GOP convention.  Yesterday, I read a news article that didn’t come out and call the President a narcissist but did say he will actually speak each night at the GOP convention.  Once we’re through with both conventions, I think more and more people will come to agree with me that neither one deserves the amount of TV coverage it gets.

Fine Hospital, Bad at Math

NYU Langone is a great hospital.  It has excellent doctors associated with it who see patients outside the hospital.  I go to more than one such doctor.  NYU Langone’s accounts receivable operation is nuts.

Today, I got a text from NYU Langone telling me I owe the organization money and I should log into the patient portal to find out about it.  The text didn’t even say how much money.  I logged in and the patient portal said I owe $29.17 and if I want more detail, I should call the toll-free number.  The semanticist in me doesn’t think “more” is the appropriate word.  Wouldn’t “any” work better?  By the way, this company also sends collection letters on accounts that aren’t past due yet, and the collection letters don’t give any detail either.

Another quick question.  If you received a text or letter saying you owed a person or company money, but containing no details, would you pay?  I wouldn’t, and you shouldn’t. 

So, I called toll-free and waited on hold for a while to speak to Denise.  At least the automated phone attendant didn’t say my call was important.  Denise was pleasant and helpful.  She listened to my ranting and provided the missing detail.  By the way, Denise said she wouldn’t pay anyone just because they said to either. 

She said they mailed me a statement three days ago.  One of those three days was a Sunday, when there is no mail delivery.  Another is today and my mail doesn’t come for hours yet.  I’d say the odds of me having received the bill before the text are zero.  If I’ve miscalculated, then they must still be zero.  If the post office was operating at a much higher level of efficiency than it is now, still zero.

Texting this lack of information to someone with a stellar FICO score before there is any chance that they would have received a bill is, to return to the correct technical term, nuts.  All it accomplishes is annoying your client, and perhaps generating a phone call that costs NYU Langone money. 

Good debt collection practice is to pursue the money quickly.  The longer a debt goes unpaid the less likely it is to be paid, but if you’re annoying the people who pay quickly, and doing so costs more than you are making by pursuing this policy, what are  you accomplishing?

Is the benefit higher than the cost?  I’m not sure, but I am compelled to think this costs more than it brings in.  Let’s assume a few things.  First, let’s assume the hospital/health service makes one percent a year on its overnight deposits.  Let’s also assume that annoying all their patients results in them paying one week faster than they otherwise would, on average.  That isn’t necessarily correct.  I know I’m annoyed enough I’m probably going to pay this bill late.  Doing so might drop my FICO score below 840, but I don’t care.

Remember I said they want $29.17 from me.  $29.17 times one percent a year for a week is roughly half a penny.  Did it cost NYU Langone more than half a penny to have Denise speak to me for a few minutes?  I hope so.  Is it going to cost them more than half a cent to send me a collection letter when my account isn’t past due?  Yeah, it will.  How about if I pay it four weeks late instead of on time, just because I’m annoyed?  That will cost them two cents.  Am I going to do that?  I’m undecided at this point but leaning toward yes.

I like the doctor involved in all this.  He knows his business, isn’t too late for appointments, and even returns calls if something comes up.  Next time I see him I’m going to have a talk with him.  The numbers don’t give them pause, but maybe he can get them to stop.  I mean he’s a heart specialist.  Does he want the billing department to give his patients high blood pressure and heart attacks?  I believe I’m seeing him to prevent those things from happening, not to ensure them.

Things I Know

The people who speak at any Democratic national convention are for the Democrat and against the Republican. The people who speak at any Republican National Convention are for the Republican and against the Democrat. Neither major political party in the US has picked a presidential candidate at its national convention in more than 50 years. Why do these things still deserve all the TV coverage they get? Cover them, sure. But don’t broadcast hours and hours of them live. There isn’t anywhere near that much news in them. At least the heritage networks don’t do gavel-to-gavel coverage anymore, and with all the channels available on cable, there are other choices if you want them.

I’ve been driving my daughter to work to keep her off public transportation during this plague.  This morning, I saw 30 people walking around (including two work crews).  I also saw four people on bicycles.  One cyclist and one pedestrian were wearing masks properly.  Two pedestrians were wearing masks to protect their chins.  This virus is still profoundly serious.  There’s no vaccine and no cure.  It kills multiple times more people than does the flu.  Going maskless isn’t just taking a risk with your own life, which would be your right.  Your mask protects other people far more than it protects you, so not wearing a mask is seriously selfish.  And, if you can’t breathe wearing a mask, you are in serious danger from this virus.  Wear a mask or stay home!

Months ago, I said I’d report back about my purchase of Scotts four-step lawn-care program directly from Scotts.  I finally did get step one barely in time to use it.  Maybe a little too late actually, since I have a lot more crabgrass this year than usual.  I got the other missing bag in time to use it too.  And while Scotts says they don’t charge for shipping, they do charge a lot more for the product than you’d pay if you bought it from a big-box home center.  In the future, if I want to avoid going to the store to buy fertilizer, I’ll just avoid buying fertilizer.  It only makes my lawn grow faster so I have to mow it more. 

Also, in the future, if I want to put down crabgrass preventer, I need to put it on my driveway too.  My driveway is so badly in need of repaving that the cracks in it were where crabgrass really took hold in 2020.

Things I Know

I’ve been a little down because of all the COVID-related isolation.  I’ve also been wasting a ton of time on reddit.  What’s your excuse?

Isais?  I was always told hurricanes have one or two-syllable names.

Perhaps Facebook’s algorithms could use a little refinement.  On this day in history, Facebook reminded me today that in years past my wife and I enjoyed a serene lunch at a nice waterfront restaurant, she had successful surgery, my daughter arrived on vacation at Disney World, our cherry tomatoes were ripe and I fixed my toilet for seven bucks.  This morning, when I signed in, Facebook suggested I share the last one.  Hard pass.

I visited an extremely sick friend last week.  He’s dying of a rare blood cancer actually but taking much longer to do it than any doctor believed possible.  I hadn’t seen him in months because of the quarantine recommendations.  Transmission levels are down where I live, but I’m still not sure if going to see him was smart.  I mean lots of people aren’t paying any attention to masks or separation anymore and I don’t want to catch COVID myself or give it to him.   He says he is immune to all contagious diseases because his white-blood count is so high.  That’s funny, but I doubt that it’s true.

In case you’re wondering, my wife saw on TV why disinfectant wipes are in short supply.  Turns out the material, not the liquid, but the material that carries the liquid, is also used in PPE masks.

I’m happy to see baseball return, but with what’s happening to the Miami Marlins, Phillies and Cardinals maybe they rushed it.  I’d hate to see anyone die from playing baseball.