A new collection policy on outstanding balances at University of Texas Medical Branch has caused some discomfort in clinic waiting rooms over recent weeks, spurring a promise by the medical branch to immediately address problems associated with the policy.

Dr. Ben Raimer, who became the medical branch’s interim president today, said the new policy — asking patients with outstanding balances to make a payment or arrange a payment plan before seeing their physician — represented the reality of medical care in United States as the system currently works.

Kathryn Eastburn: 409-683-5257; kathryn.eastburn@galvnews.com.

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(21) comments

Charlene Adams

Financial discussions should not take place at the front desk!! If a patient is asked for a partial payment and cannot provide one, then they should be moved to a private area to discuss their options. And if you need extra personnel to accomplish this then that should be taken care of as part of the policy implementation. Furthermore, no front desk clerk should be asking anybody to leave. Where was the clinic manager? They should be handling this and similar situations and definitely not in public view!!

Kennisha Mason

I am very familiar with this clinic. I have a balance that I was making payments and when I went to my appointment the front desk lady told me I had to make a $300 deposit towards my balance in order

to a see my doctor. Keeping in mind that I have already met my out of pocket and the visit would have been covered at 100%. But I was turned away because I was unable to pay the deposit. And I have a hard cast on my foot that I am stuck with until I can make the payment. I have tried to communicate with the billing dept. but I can never get a call back.

Debra Criss

You may be able to call Administration and ask to have your appointment rescheduled as soon as possible and arrangements made. You can find the number on the website. It looks like they have an interest in correcting this.

David Schuler

Ask to see the patient's mobile phone. If it's a $1000 iPhone X and they complain about not being able to pay, maybe some good public shaming is in order.

Gary Scoggin

Given the complexity of insurance, billing, discounts, etc., and seeing how long all that takes to get settled, it’s pretty easy to fall into this situation. I think public shaming over an iPhone isn’t really that constructive. But if it makes you feel better, go ahead.

Debra Criss

I also learned of the new policy at a recent clinic visit in Ortho at the PCP pavilion. There is no privacy for the folks who are being asked to settle balances or make payments. Those discussions should take place in a private space. It is really unfortunate that this task has been assigned to front desk staff. I am sure it surprises no one that there are numerous errors on balances if you have ever dealt with them. The public shaming must stop. It is also ludicrous to assume that someone presenting for a clinic appointment who cannot pay should just be turned away or rescheduled. That is not something in the skill set of front desk personnel and a risk management issue.

John Merritt

I was called about an unpaid balance. I said OK, i can give you credit card payment. Then I waited while the caller tried to open my account. Finally, i said i will pay later.

Ron Shelby

Is there a way to notify them of the past due balance payment requirement when an appointment is made? Make it very clear.

Jane Watkins

Yes...its called a bill you get every month.

Carlos Ponce

I know people who do not receive bills monthly or otherwise from UTMB. They are notified only when they go in for an appointment of past due billing. They are told to go online to MyChart to see a bill but they have no computer.

Charlene Adams

You have to sign up for MyChart so they must have done so at some point or they would be receiving paper bills.

Carlos Ponce

Charlene, the person in question asked why he had not received a bill upon being told he owed. He was then told they appeared on "mtChart" to which he asked, "What's that? No computer = no bill.

Roy Hughes

It is interesting reading about the new policy that UTMB has established. Everyone has different circumstances. When Ron asks about how he would be able to find out about his balance I cannot believe that someone would have the audacity to make the statement that " Yes, ...its called a bill you get every month...". How do you know he receives a bill? Jane, you mentioned that, "...I work for UTMB and I am also a patient. They ask for $10 to pay towards past balances. It amazes me how people think that paying for health care is too expensive...yet think they don't get paid enough for whatever job it is they do! If you don't have medical insurance or a crappy…" Wow, that is certainly a great opinion coming from someone who works at UTMB.

Jane, you need to know that A) not all patients work at UTMB, B) not all people get to pay a measly $10. Towards past balances and c) everyone's health insurance is different than yours. We have different companies that charge different premiums and everyone has different deductibles, different co-pays, different out-of-pocket maximums, and the billing amount agreed between the insurance company and UTMB is probably different. This is not a cookie-cutter health care system. For someone such as yourself from UTMB to make a snide remark and then, mention people complaining about their own health care insurance how can you even begin to make a comment about that ?? It is sad enough that clerks who have felt it was their mission to discuss private financial matters out loud for everyone in the waiting room to hear. I would think that the continuation of this practice would be a reason to go elsewhere. I worked for a public entity and while I was not 'on duty' I still represented them no matter what I was doing or where I was. I was very careful to watch what I said in public. For me, it would have affected my employment. I would think the same would go for UTMB. I worked for a public entity for over 30 years. Even though I was ‘..on duty’ I was not at liberty to voice my opinion about my employer. I refrained from making negative comments about our clients because my job was important to me and I was a reflection of my job. I am surprised that UTMB does not follow the same policy. written by Lynne Hughes Springer

Jane Watkins

I work for UTMB and I am also a patient. They ask for $10 dollars to pay towards past balances. It amazes me how people think that paying for health care is too expensive...yet think they don't get paid enough for whatever job it is they do! If you don't have medical insurance or a crappy plan...it sucks...but just as you would not work for free, neither should the doctors, nurses and staff. People...if you have insurance...read your policy! If people would pay their bill...we would not have to ask for it while we have you in front of us! If you are embarrassed or feel shame...think about that the next time someone you know who works for UTMB gets laid off!

Paul Steele

Doctors and the hospital admin are well paid in my opinion...Greedy CEO’S please give the

minimum wage earners a break.

Charlene Adams

I also worked for UTMB for 26 years. I don’t have a problem with them asking for payment but they shouldn’t do it in front of others.

Carlos Ponce

"they shouldn’t do it in front of others.: Nice sentiment but among the patients they say UTMB means "yoU Tell My Business".

Miceal O'Laochdha

Jane, UTMB is notorious for issuing wholly inaccurate bills to patients (always higher inaccuracies, of course) and making it necessary to do battle with their stone wall response policy to get it corrected. When they have issued a bill against an HSA account that is wrong, the HSA will not permit any further charges against it until UTMB corrects their error. Since UTMB will do everything they can to delay resolving their error, this has resulted in patients being unable to get scheduled treatments, something of zero concern the anonymous UTMB functionaries. DO NOT chastise patients for their battles with the intentionally disingenuous UTMB accounts payable department because it is the "hold the money as long as possible/ try to get as much as you can" UTMB policy that is the culprit.

Karen Sawyer

I have a very medically expensive daughter and unless I was a millionaire, there’s no way I could keep up. I took my daughter in for a broken foot and the lady at the front desk of orthopedics in League City was so loud and rude about what I owed. Everyone else has been more quiet and polite about it and you can tell they hate to even bring it up but this woman acted like it was coming directly out of her check if I didn’t pay.

Karen Sawyer

Also don’t count on UTMB having your bills correct. They don’t take off PPO discounts and they don’t account for the amounts you’ve paid up front when the bills come in.

Charlene Adams

The bills come out on a certain cycle so sometimes the amount you prepaid has not been applied to your balance as of the date of the bill. If you have a prepayment it is usually credited by the next billing cycle.

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