Rebecca McGee will be three months old on Sunday, which ought to be enough time for the hubbub to have died down a little. But it hasn't, and it shouldn't. If you've ever wanted a textbook example of how ridiculous the health care industry has gotten, Rebecca's case is it.
Rebecca was born at Fairfax Hospital on Oct. 27. A few days later, the hospital's bill arrived at the McGee home in Alexandria.
Any hospital bill in this day and age is a showstopper. But the fourth item on Rebecca's was positively amazing.
It said: CIRCUMCISION, $35.
Now, there are a lot of remarks I could make right about here -- and so could you. Suffice it to say that Rebecca McGee is as female as her name would lead you to believe. She didn't have a circumcision at Fairfax Hospital, on Oct. 27 or any other day. And take it from me, ladies and gentlemen, she never will.
Rebecca's father, John, was the one who first noticed the $35 charge on the bill. As soon as he stopped laughing, he called Blue Cross of Virginia, to which he had submitted a claim, to tell them they'd better delete the item and get their money back from the hospital.
You're going to love this.
Blue Cross refused.
The claims agent told John that it would cost at least $35 in staff time to process an adjustment.
So Blue Cross duly paid Fairfax Hospital $35 for a circumcision on a little girl that never happened.
And who really paid in the long run? You and me.
Despite the cost, Blue Cross scurried to process an adjustment as soon as Levey and his researcher started sniffing around this story. Meanwhile, Lon Walls, media relations manager for the hospital, says it all appears to be a one-time-only billing mistake made in the nursing department. And Raymond Freson, public relations manager for Blue Cross of Virginia, says the company is "in the process of establishing a service where we will audit hospital bills to pick up problems like this."
A useful step. Still, if John McGee hadn't called me, nothing would have been done.
Rebecca will be dining out on this story for the next 85 years, and that's delightful. But the underlying message is not delightful at all.
Our health care costs would be much lower if we had a system that didn't turn its back on "little errors" -- and didn't depend on Dads who call columnists.