Saturday, August 8, 2015

Inch Seventy-Five: Bills

I was surprised to see a bill from the hospital in the mail. I'd had a liver biopsy early in July, and had taken care of all the charges (the remainder of my 2015 out-of-pocket deductible, a whopping $95.00 at that point) when I had pre-registered.

So nothing prepared me for a balance owing of $2342.00.

When I got over my shock, I called the billing department of the hospital's parent conglomerate. The customer service agent I spoke with could not have been nicer. After asking me a few questions, she put me on hold.

It was a long hold. When she came back on, she said, gently, "now stay with me on this." She went on to say I received the bill because the hospital had failed to bill my insurance company the full amount. She said she had already flagged the account and sent it back to be billed properly. She then apologized.

Stay with me on this? Apologize? Was she kidding? I was giddy with relief that it wasn't more serious. (I am in the middle of an insurance appeal on a hefty procedure performed at Mayo in June, so I am a little sensitive about medical bills right now.) 

I started laughing and thanked her for her help. I told her I'd almost had a heart attack when I had opened the bill.

The customer service agent spoke up, her voice warm with humor. "Oh, no, no. We all die owing some bill, but this one is definitely not one to have a heart attack over." 

I hung up and thought about her comment. "We all die owing some bill." What a great thought. It puts death and finances in perspective, doesn't it? 

Don't get me wrong. I live frugally, I pay my bills promptly, I don't run up charge accounts. Truth is, I don't even own any credit cards.

But not every bill comes in the mail. Not every bill represents payment for tangible goods or services. Some bills are from the heart: a friend's thoughtfulness, a stranger's good deed. So many bills are kindnesses one can never repay. 

I just this week resigned my seat on our Civil Service Commission. Civil Service is a city commission that approves hiring procedures for our fire and police departments. I have been a commissioner since 2006, and stepped down only because my energy has waned so much so that I could not longer give it the time and energy it deserves. I finished the monthly meeting, came home, and drafted a resignation letter effective at the end of the September meeting. I sent it electronically the next morning. As I noted on Facebook: One of the harder letters I have ever written: my resignation from the City Civil Service Commission. I wanted to step down before I had to step down, but I still had tears in my eyes when I hit "send" on the email.

For the rest of the day and into the next, I received wonderful emails and Facebook comments from friends, my fellow commissioners, and City staff. Some of them brought tears to my eyes; one of them made me cry, sitting at my desk at work.  

It was wonderful.

These are the bills I will die owing. Not bills telling me where to remit payment or how to pay online, but bills of the heart, handed to me freely with no thought of repayment, but which I nonetheless will never be able to repay, for the amount owing is beyond calculation.


see you there! said...

Oh goodness, that bill was a shocker for sure. I'm so glad you got the issue resolved and that the person on the other end of the phone line was so helpful and kind.

Like you, we don't have many bills to pay with money but lots that we need to pay with love.


Laurie said...

There is so much wisdom in this, April. Bills of the heart, indeed. I'm glad the paper bill was a mistake, and hoping the other one you're dealing with is resolved soon.