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.

Author: Tom

I know by ABC's, I can write my name, and I can count to 100.