Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Procrastination Reward

Procrastination is one of my most problematic--and deeply rooted--traits. I can procrastinate like nobody's business. Heck, I sometimes procrastinate on doing things I LIKE. You can only image what I'm like when I'm faced with a task I vehemently DISlike.

Something like, say, paying medical bills.

I don't mind paying bills in general, when we can afford them. And lately, we can afford them. So that's not the issue. I especially don't much mind paying bills online, where all I have to do is put in a password and a user name and an amount and click a button. But it's those other bills, the one-time bills, especially the doctor bills, that I hate with the heat of a thousand suns. Because paying them is never a piece-o-cake event. I always, inevitably, pick up a bill and am unsure whether it's the correct amount, which means going back through my insurance papers and seeing if the 'explanation of benefits' (eob) matches the amount I'm being asked to pay. If it doesn't, I toss the sucker aside. Because it's more than I can deal with. Of course, that results in my receiving many, many bills for the same charge, with an equal number of different payment amounts. And even if I can figure it all out, there's finding the checkbook, a pen, some stamps, and putting the whole thing together. Pain in my ass. Easier not to do. So, generally, I don't do. Works for me.

What I found out today is that it works for me even more than I thought it would. I was starting to get notices from collections agencies about eensy teensy doctor's bills (I mean that for real, like $17 or $6 or something) that I'd just not bothered paying, and I decided Today Is The Day. And I gathered up all the bills (almost a year's worth...bad girl), put them into piles, put them in date order, and began to try to match them up with the eob records I had in a separate pile. And what did I find? I found out that the local children's hospital, which is where both my kids go to see their regular old pediatrician, as well as where N goes to see his various specialists (cardiologist, endocrinologist, etc.), was actually whittling down my bill each month. Apparently, I had put off paying for some of the visits for so long that they were actually writing off those visits, and keeping only the larger charge, like for N's echocardiogram.

And when I say they were writing them off, I'm not joking. They were spelling it out for me, telling me that they were writing them off. For instance, there was one part of the bill that started out at around $18 (I only pay 10% of the bills, and a single doctor's visit is usually around $60 total). By the third or fourth month when I hadn't paid (because their numbers didn't match mine), I noticed that there was a "balance forward" of $18, but then a "write-off (small amount)" with a CREDIT of $6. And then the next month, another "write-off (small amount)" with a credit of $4-something. And then the NEXT month, ANOTHER write off. By the time I sat down with it today, that $18 bill had been whittled down to less than $6.

So, to sum up: The longer I put off paying my bill to these folks, the less I have to pay them. Talk about your positive reinforcement. Sheesh. I almost want to write them a note to point out to them how completely ridiculous that policy is--for them. But then I wouldn't get my procrastination discount, and what fun would that be?

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