FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - In 2016, Susan O’Rear fought breast cancer and won.
She had a mastectomy but chose not to have an implant put in afterward, so last August she was searching for a place to buy a new bra and breast prosthesis.
“Where you Google where to buy these things, there is nowhere,” she said.
She decided to try McLeod Health’s retail store called Inspirations in Florence.
“It’s a gift shop for cancer patients, I guess you would say,” O’Rear explained. “They sell wigs and breast prosthesis, various other clothing and bras.”
Items like breast prosthesis are also considered durable medical equipment that can be covered by insurance, but O’Rear said she was told she would have to pay the $399 in full.
Instead, the store was going to later apply the charges towards her insurance deductible.
O’Rear said when the charges were finally filed in November, the explanation of benefits (EOB) was much higher than what she paid.
“Shortly thereafter, I had received a bill from McLeod Health for the entire purchase as if I had not paid anything,” O’Rear said.
She continued to receive bills each month, but not for the same amount she was initially charged for.
“I’ve got five different bills with three or four different amounts owed,” she explained. “I got one in November, got one in December, got one in January, February, March and April I was turned over to a collection agency.”
The bills ranged from $479 to $79 all without her paying another dime.
When she initially called, she was told she paid in full but that didn’t stop the bills.
“I never heard anything back so then starts this whole me calling BlueCross BlueShield and them calling McLeod and never getting anywhere past the same sales lady,” O’Rear explained. “Every time we talked, she agreed with me that yes, I had paid and there is a mess up somewhere, but it is out of her hands because she just turns it over to the billing department.”
She said she was told the initial charge was just an estimate and then later told she owed nothing, but the bills kept coming.
“Half the time I end up crying about it about three-fourths of the way through the conversation with the people,” she said. “I can’t understand why people don’t just tell the truth, just be honest. I went in there. I paid you what you asked me. You told me I had to pay in full or I couldn’t leave in full with it that day.”
She said the monthly bills had different dates than when she visited, and one referenced an ER physician.
“It was easier than this to recover from surgery. The breast cancer was nothing compared to this. That’s the truth.” O’Rear said laughing through her frustration.
WMBF reached out to McLeod Billing to try to get some answers for O’Rear. At first the department said O’Rear’s account had a zero balance.
However, O’Rear said she’s been told that before but continued to get mailed more bills.
McLeod was unable to say how long the account had been at zero or if the hospital’s system would show the amount listed in the PeeDee Medical Collection Service.
The last bill O’Rear received was from the collection service.
McLeod, however, was unable to answer the questions, citing privacy laws.
McLeod Health Vice President for Public Information Jumana Swindler did say that regulations and reimbursements can make billing complex.
“We have different billing systems, one for physicians, one for hospitals and the other for gift shops and other entities,” Swindler said in an email. “Occasionally there is a gap between billing systems that cause a delay in closeout of accounts. When that happens, there is no impact to credit rating or any other issue.”
Days after WMBF reached out to McLeod, O’Rear said she received a call from the billing department to tell her that her account had been recently adjusted to a zero balance. O’Rear said she was also told to disregard any other bills she may receive.
McLeod received an email showing the balance but said McLeod refused to send me a formal account statement showing a zero balance.
O’Rear hasn’t received any bills in a few weeks and is hoping this time it’s actually the end.
“Here I am months later just marred down by the whole process,” O’Rear said.