Return to sender

It’s amazing how the passage of time changes what you love and hate. When I was a twelve year old, I used to hate cauliflower cheese, butter and coffee, claiming that even being in the same room as any of these products would cause me to throw up. And to be fair, the first three times I drank coffee, I was true to my word. The dinner ladies at Buckley County Primary School didn’t care too much for my pleas of “I told you so” but it was some small comfort to me as I bent double, I can tell you.

Of course, I loved Whizzer & Chips comic book, potato waffles, getting anything in the post and playing heavily pixellated games on the ZX Spectrum. Above all, I loved Glynis Barber. Dempsey & Makepeace probably doesn’t mean much to most Americans on here, but it played a small formative role in my upbringing, and at least allowed me to get over the devastation caused by the realisation that I was never going to spend the rest of my life with Agnetha from Abba.

Everything changes. I now consume more butter than the entirety of Venezuela, and you shouldn’t even bother to talk to me before I’ve put some coffee into my bloodstream. I don’t read Whizzer & Chips, admittedly, although that has more to do with the fact that the title closed down in 1990 than a loss of faith with Shiner and Mustapha Million.

One thing that hasn’t changed is my love of getting stuff in the post. I’m supposed to say it’s the mail these days, but there’s more chance of me saying aloo-minn-umm than denying my love of the postie and her sack of many delights. Perhaps most people think of the deliverer of their letters as a man, but ours was a nice woman who used to give me and Little Sis a 50p coin each every so often. Inevitably, we used to look forward to the arrival of the daily delivery.

Even in recent years my childish excitement with the familiar sound of envelopes hitting the floor under the door (don’t give me any of that mailbox rubbish, please) hasn’t lessened. Sure, there were plenty of bills, but there was always the chance that a package would arrive with untold treasures inside. In reality, it was usually the offer of a new credit card with free balance transfers from HSBC, but you just never knew.

Until I came to America, that is. Despite not having built up 30 or so years of inadvisedly signing up to mailing lists, I get more junk here than I ever got in the UK. As well as credit card offers, I’ve had catalogues, loan opportunities, and even the chance to get a special rate subscription to Playboy. That went down well with The Special One, I can tell you.

But I don’t mind the junk so much. What really upsets me is the constant barrage of medical bills I seem to get.

Now, there are two things you need to know here. Firstly, I’ve got good medical insurance through work. Secondly, I’ve been to the doctors twice in the last twelve months. I’ve spent no more than 40 collective minutes in the building. So why do I get a barrage of bills, receipts and inexplicable letters from companies I’ve never heard of, claiming that I owe them for a whole series of acronyms like a GGT, LD or an HFP? I think they must charge by the letter, given that an INTRPT seems to cost a hell of a lot more than a ‘routine’ BCBS.

Whatever happened to the happy days of walking into an NHS clinic and walking out with nothing more than a prescription and a slight limp?

Next time I go to the doctors, I’m going to demand a glossary of terms. And I won’t even think about going to the bathroom, for fear that I’ll get an invoice from Toilet Diagnostics of New York® six weeks later.

I’d probably leave The Special One to explain that one to the insurance company, to be honest…

12 thoughts on “Return to sender

  1. Married to a Brit

    Hello! I ran across your blog the other day. I love reading it. I can relate in many ways. I am married to a northern brit and it make me smile to see there are others that struggle with the day to day living in America. I can relate completely to your medical bill issue. I too went to the doctor once and was boombarded with bills and denials. I work in insurance and was able to make some sense of it but it took over four months to actaully get it taken care of for once all!!! Keep the blog post coming. I love sipping on my coffee in the morning and reading it! Cheers!!!

  2. Mom/Mum

    Gosh don’t get me started on medical bills. Total foreign launguage to me. Husband’s HR/medical person at work just gets annoyed with him everytime he comes into her office waving another inexplicable bill for her to translate. I remember being totally miffed at being billed from a blood work lab, thinking they’d made a mistake, sent the bill to me rather than my doctor’s.
    There should be some glossary of terms and instruction manual for all non-US citizens who have US health insurance. Not that me or the hubs ever read instruction manuals though…

  3. Dylan

    A Chip-ite clearly, Benny.

    Married To A Brit – glad to see I’m keeping you company over your coffee! I’m still trying to explain to The Special One the difference between the North and the South of the UK. I think she finds it difficult to believe a place so small can have so many nuances!

    And Mom/Mum, I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone. To be honest, every medical company in New York could start billing me and I’d assume that I had to pay them. Clearly I need to take a more aggressive approach…

  4. Brooklyn

    “There should be some glossary of terms and instruction manual for all non-US citizens who have US health insurance.”

    Do you really think WE can understand that stuff? In a pig’s eye. [And, before I am attacked by the McCain Campaign, that is not a subtle attempt to demean Sarah Palin’s candidacy.]

    After all, if we possessed that capability to speak the foreign tongue of medicalbillese, we wouldn’t have to insist that everyone else speak English in their own country as well as in ours.

  5. Siobhan

    I absolutely love potato waffles and miss them with a passion. If I ever find a decent recipe for them, I know where to pass it on. I used to watch Dempsey & Makepiece too, and I love great day harvesting parcels or surprise letters.

    I recently got signed up for a magazine I never even asked for. I know I didn’t because they spelt my first name wrong. And yet, they keep coming.

    Never have a child here or buy property, you’re just asking for the junk to hit the fan.

    Good luck fighting the bills.

  6. Almost American

    We never used to hear from our health insurance company, but now they send me mail regularly. Apparently it’s now state law that every time they refuse to pay 100% of what the doc bills them for, they have to send an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) to me so that I can see what the original amount billed was versus how much they actually paid. When the health insurance does that I simply file the paper in the trash (after recovering from being gobsmacked that the doc charged $132 for putting some freezy stuff on DS’s verruca – a 10 second item that suddenly turned into outpatient surgery on the bill!) However, when the dental insurance company sends me an EOB, I pay closer attention because in that case I have to pay the difference between the amount originally billed and what the insurance paid 🙁

  7. Expat Mum

    With three kids and almost monthly visits to the bloody ER (see my current post) I am getting quite good at sorting out the health stuff. I am taking bets on how much the bills will be for yesterday’s visit, and because we haven’t yet hit our deductible, we will be paying for the whole lot.
    One piece of advice for anyone not in the know however – never let something go unpaid, even if you disagree with the charge. The bills will be sent to a debt collector, who will hassle you for about 6 months even for $20. It all goes on your credit report though, so sort it out rather than ignoring it.

  8. Alasdair

    I’m surprised no-one has yet mentioned the “This is NOT a Bill” precursor not-bills which are sent while the medical institution tries to collect from the medical insurer …

    And then, in the fullness of time, the actual bill arrives, looking amazingly similar on the outside, yet on the inside says “Pay This !” …

    PS I concur ! The new edit capability is SEXY ! And has all the feel of a Jeopardy round ! Can you get it to play the Jeopardy theme while it is counting down ? (grin)

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