Johns Hopkins’ Billing: Death By A Thousand Cuts

Johns Hopkins’ billing department is, again, billing me for bogus charges. I’ve complained about this multiple times. Nothing is happening!

This article was originally published elsewhere in November 2022. I’m republishing because it serves as a good example of my slogan, AHABe. I’ve done minimal editing.

Here I am, complaining, again, about Johns Hopkins. This time it is the billing department that messed up, but it is not the first time they mess up. I’ve complained, again and again, but it seems that the people they put at the front line of billing are incompetent goons.

Because I’ve complained, again and again, and because they keep messing up, again and again, I call this a death by a thousand cuts. Pretty ironic that the same hospital that saved my life when I had cancer is now working to increase my stress, raise my blood pressure, and stomp all over my mental health.

I’m on buspirone for anxiety. All of this nonsense from Johns Hopkins does not help at all with calming me. It has the opposite effect, because I now have to spend time out of my day to complain, again, about their mess.

See, I could complain just enough to get them to fix their mess. I’ve actually done this in the past, but it did not yield any lasting results, because here we are, again!

However, I’d bet a good sum that I’m not the only person to which they do this. I am absolutely devastated at the notion that they are doing the very same thing to patients who do not have their complete faculties and do not have a support system.

To tell you the truth, I don’t have a support system in this matter. However, even with my brain damage, I do have my faculties. So I complain, loud and clear, so that those who can’t complain won’t face the same nonsense that I do, and erroneously pay up for charges they are not responsible for.

I also got a new slogan for you:

AHABe: All Hospitals Are Bastards, eventually.

It does not roll off the tongue as easily as ADABe, but I’ll take it nonetheless. They saved my life, yes, but now they are bastards. This is akin to an abusive relationship. One day your abuser is marvelous. The next day the abuser stomps all over you.

This time my complaint will go directly to Patient Relations. Why am I bypassing the billing department? I’ve complained to billing in the past, but, truly, I cannot recall the time when I got satisfactory results that were speedy. Often, they take much more than the guaranteed time to reply to my messages. I’ve also had to get on the phone with them.

Still, because this problem keeps happening, I think someone outside the billing department needs to be involved in getting to the bottom of this. I’d really like someone to conduct an audit of their practices. Heads should roll over this, because I keep getting the same problem over and over again.

One of the worst failures of their billing department and one of the most vexing was when they confused me and my wife and thought that I was under Medicare at the time. I wasn’t but my wife was. They thought I was and this mix up caused me a huge headache.

Our insurance did not have an Explanation Of Benefits (EOB) under my name. I had to talk to both my insurance company and Johns Hopkins on the phone at the same time to sort this out. As I recall, it was my insurance that took the lead on getting us in a conference call with Johns Hopkins.

At any rate, I now have a new problem with them. This charge:

Source: the author of this article.

The problem should jump in your face. My insurance covered nothing of this charge. That’s not normal. The only thing I can see happening around that time in my emails is that I renewed a prescription for praluent, my PCSK9 inhibitor. It normally costs me $25 to renew that prescription.

I actually was able to find a previous discussion about the same charge on the same day. Apparently, I was able to make it disappear, but it is now back. This gives me another reason to want to have Patient Relations do an independent investigation of the matter. The same charge is back, without an explanation from billing!!!

At any rate, if I go to my insurance, here is what I see when I try to find an EOB for that date, nothing:

Source: the author of this article.

There is nothing at all for that date. They simply did not submit the charge to my insurance, and now they are asking me to pay for the whole thing.

Let’s do a thought experiment for a second and imagine that Johns Hopkins is correctly charging me for this service. Ok, they do have a victory in that I have to pay now. However, the hurdles I’ve got to get through to get to their victory are entirely created by them.

First I’ll note that they are bringing up this charge five months after the fact. Do you think I’m going to be able to relate some line in their billing with something that happened in my life five months after the fact? Heck, I don’t remember what I ate one month ago!

Their billing system is moreover opaque. Sure, when you see a neurologist for instance, the line indicating your visit in billing is clear enough. However, for just about everything else than a doctor’s visit, the system is extremely opaque.

I think that they are trying to charge me for a prescription renewal, but I’m not sure of this, because there is nothing on the billing screen indicating that. Maybe a doctor who can read doctor jargon knows that “Willow Ambulatory Medication Charge” means “prescription renewal” but I’m not a doctor.

I’d go even further to say that if you do need multiple special medications from the hospital, you’re still not going to know what they are charging you for, because they do not tell you the name of the prescription! I cannot fathom how they don’t see that this is a problem for patients.

It used to be that I recommended Johns Hopkins to everyone, without reservation. I cannot do this anymore. They messed up too many times for me to do this. They’ve already lost business of mine over this. My vasectomy will be performed by another outfit than Johns Hopkins. I’ve cancelled my next appointment with my sleep specialist, because they screwed me over.

I may move the rest of my business somewhere else. Time will tell. A lot of whether I continue with this hospital depends on how they respond to my latest complaints. Right now I have three appointments on the calendar with them.

I don’t have to contact my grocery store every few months to get bogus charges dismissed.

I don’t have to contact the electric company every few months to get bogus charges dismissed.

I don’t have to contact the gas station every few months to get bogus charges dismissed.

I do have to contact this “world-class hospital” every few months to get bogus charges dismissed.


So yes, I’m bypassing billing and going straight to Patient Relations. Maybe this time someone will crack the whip or give me a straightforward explanation for this charge, because right now there is no straightforward explanation for it.

Remember the slogan:

AHABe: All Hospitals Are Bastards, eventually.

On a positive note, I should mention that so far I’ve been satisfied with the response I got from Patient Relations to this story:

I realize that doing an investigation takes time. I’m hoping that the Patient Relations department will show the same zeal in getting to the bottom of why billing keeps messing up.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *