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18 Jul 09 LabCorp Denies Services to Heart Attack Patient Over Old $7 Debt

Labcorp Handwritten Note on DebtMany may have already heard about LabCorp’s bold move in denying services to a heart attack patient over an old debt of $7, but I just want to make sure that everyone hears about this incident. Below is the article by Donna Smith, the patient’s wife. She rightfully denounced Laboratory Corporation of America’s practice of disallowing services when “their” computer shows that an old debt was not paid, even if you have insurance and your insurance company may have made an error or did not pay the amount that Laboratory Corporation of America believed was due. Bottom line is that even with insurance, LabCorp will deny services to patients who they believe owe them money from prior services. Here is the note from LabCorp’s front desk that was given to Mr. Smith when he was denied services. You can click on it to get a bigger image.

OK, if this wasn’t personal enough just yet for me, it just got a whole lot more so. And if you think for one instant that in this nation at this point in history and with this popularly elected President and Democratic Congress you will be treated for a heart attack simply because you might die if you are not treated, think again. And if you think having insurance helps, think some more.

On Friday, my husband was denied a blood test because a computer record from some distant time past and some other state showed he had a $7 balance with LabCorp. I am not making this up.

My husband had a heart attack this week. He woke up one morning sweating profusely and with a heart rate dropping. I watched his color turn first ruddy then ashen, and then he felt as though he was going to pass out. He would not allow me to call 911 as he slowly began to feel sick to his stomach and he believed his symptoms were digestive rather than cardiac.

We have learned over the years to wait to seek care – it is expensive to do otherwise and dooms us to the endless loop of bills and collection notices and more damage to our already badly bruised credit rating. So we always wait to seek care until there seems to be no other option. We are not alone. Millions of Americans do the same. We do not want to use the emergency rooms or doctors’ offices. We don’t want anything to do with the whole mess.

We moved to Maryland in March, but have fought Humana insurance and Medicare transfer since then to even make sure my husband can get any care at all. And, by God, we were paying the premiums the whole time the insurance folks hemmed and hawed and stalled. It took three months to get that all straightened out, during which time they repeated over and over, “we’re not denying treatment,” and technically I suppose they weren’t as they want us all just to get out our checkbooks and debit cards and pay up. And in the meantime, my husband waited for any doctors’ appointment and got meds by calling back to Chicago to get prescriptions refilled.

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My husband is a cardiac patient and a vascular patient with a complicated medical history and needs follow-up care on a regular basis. He is a responsible guy who has always maintained his insurance coverage and who avoids seeking care unless it is needed. He does not seek to overuse or abuse the system. To stay relatively healthy, he needs regular check-ups and decent intervention when necessary.

But, I insisted my husband follow up in the way we all are told is more sensible and cost effective. He went to a primary care doc on Wednesday who shuffled him off to a cardiologist after a visit barely long enough to be billed as an “extended, new patient visit.” An EKG showed the grim reality. “Abnormal, negative T-waves. Inferior infarct.”

Blood work was ordered in advance of the cardiologist visit set for Friday. He was to fast overnight, see the cardiologist and then get his blood drawn. Seems to be progressing, eh?

Well, only until he sat down in the LabCorp office to get his blood drawn. The LabCorp employee typed in my husband’s Social Security Number, and promptly told him he could not have his blood drawn or have his test administered until he cleared up his old bill with LabCorp. The bill? $7. That’s right — $7.

And my husband has been covered by insurance for many years. But now he sat – post myocardial infarction or heart attack – being told by a laboratory employee that he would be denied care due to an unpaid $7 bill. He did not have $7 with him. He was fasting. He tried to explain. They did not budge. They did call the supervisor. She confirmed and stood her ground for LabCorp. No test for Larry Smith. He owes $7.

David King, the CEO of LabCorp, made $8.2 million in 2008. He’s one of the people and LabCorp is one of the companies President Obama is celebrating who will help transform our nation’s healthcare system. Indeed. And LabCorp’s political participation committee donated funds to several candidates in 2008, including Sen. Max Baucus and Sen. Charles Grassley, both of the Senate Finance Committee that is working on the nation’s healthcare reform.

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Lest we think the insurance giants are the only people hurting, harming and killing Americans like my husband as they shore up their profits, follow the money in this story alone. One doctor’s office, another doctor’s office, one insurance company and finally a lab – all worked together to make what they could individually off my husband and then ultimately denied his care for $7. Everybody got their bite of the apple and then left him in the dust as they moved on to the next source of revenue, oops, I mean the next patient continue reading.

Where do we stand today? Still no blood work drawn. Waiting for next week to see what we can do to set the tests and exams the cardiologist ordered before she got busy with another patient. Did my husband return to the doctor’s office to tell them what happened and ask for their help? Yes. And he said not one person, not one, would reach into their pockets and give him the $7 or pick up the phone and try to help him resolve this. So what was his life worth? $7.

We’ll get the tests done somehow. But the point is, we’ll have to fight for it. And his heart will be stressed more and so on and so on and so on. This is the travesty of healthcare in this nation. And this Congress and this President are so damned concerned with their own political futures they cannot even see this reality for the rest of us. I am so angry.

And don’t tell me that a single payer – publicly funded and privately delivered system — wouldn’t stop heart attack patients from being denied care due to old debts of $7. It’s the only system that could stop that sort of abuse.

The LabCorp supervisor who denied Larry Smith’s test on Friday, June 26, in Elkridge, Maryland, is named Shirley Smith (no relation to Larry) at LabCorp’s Maryland office: 410-365-1264.

Donna Smith is a substantial supporter of the Democrat Party so in all fairness, LabCorp attorneys and management were also contributors to Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and many Democrat Senators and Members of the House of Representatives who are working on health care reform legislation. LabCorp is now trying to convince these same elected officials into making laws that benefit the company. According to Huffington Post, 7 identifiable LabCorp employees contributed to Republicans while 14 contributed to Democrats.

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Reader's Comments

  1. |

    If the defenders of LabCorp are still monitoring this board, it is high time to step up and earn your applause,raises and promotions, for your good work!

  2. |

    LabCorp is not a charity organization. They are a business and like any other, they have the goal of making profit. Last year, LabCorp wrote off over 200 million dollars in unpaid medical bills. Of course they are trying to collect unpaid bills from patients in these hard economic times. I sympathize with the husbands situation, but seriously, don’t blame LabCorp or the phlebotomists in the office. Why don’t you try blaming our crumbling healthcare system, your crummy insurance and/or the fact that you couldn’t come up with a mere $7 to cover the bill. You all should spend more time researching the charity causes that LabCorp is involoved in and less time blaming everyone else for your problems.

  3. |

    Well said.

  4. |

    I have two insurances – tricare and asi – together they pay 99.9999 % of ALL medical bills yet Lab Corp REFUSES to bill my secondary! – so I have bunches of stuff that they have sent to collections and I dont care – they havent refused me service yet since I usually get my blood drawn at my specialists office and then it goes to them – if they want to spend their money to send this stuff to collections instead of spending another 15 minutes to fill out the secondary insurance form then its THEIR problem NOT mine….

  5. |

    oh and BTW I am a CKD patient who had a TIA in January and am on other meds as well plus I am on Procrit and need a monthly blood test for that – my husband served 25 years in the military making lousy pay and fighting in two wars to get these benefits – and then these people are too damn lazy to get off their rear ends and take the time to bill the insurance so they WILL get paid???? – none you obviously dont have a clue

  6. |

    I AM AN EMPLOYEE OF LABCORP. my condolences to the family of the cardiac victim. this is another brilliant idea of corporate to collect their debts. Don’t get me off on that! I have many complaints, ranging from David King, to Don Hardison, to the local regional management of Trinda Ringrose, and Leann Gregg. i will be damned if my perfect record of 5 years will be jeopardized because i won’t harass people to put money down on their credit cards for their visits!! is anyone a lawyer here on this site? i would love to speak with one!

  7. |

    I HATE CREDIT CARD CAPTURE!!!! I wont do it! I refuse. I dont care. I am there to service the people that walk in that door the best that I can and to ask them to leave there credit card info before hand is emabarassing. And then if they owe a dollar and dont have it we have to tell them sorry no blood draw today. the managers suck!

  8. |

    have you been threatened to be written up?? which division are u at? our management team are complete assholes. i got written up for my first time ever. i have been there for 5 years. my site sees over 60 a day. and i have one co worker with me. for the error i made, i get NO verbal first, just write up then termination. our division is gung ho on writing everybody up. we are seriously short staffed in our area. an they refuse to see this. the error i made i would NOT have made had we been staffed properly.
    and the amount of bullshit that they pile on us is fucking crazy. and people wonder y they aren’t given all smiles when they walk in the door???? are you doing appt scheduling yet? o yeah this will go over like a lead balloon. our pt’s who have already been waiting an hr are gonna get pissed when ppl who made thes online appts are taken first. maybe this would be better if they friggin got me the staff an more draw room and computers!!

  9. |

    Lab corp 4122 Metric Drive St 800 Winter Park, Florida. Went with mom for a blood test and the front desk lady african american
    ask for insurance with an attitude threw the papers back at us and started yelling for no reason we are hispanic i don’t think nobody should treat any one this way.

  10. |

    This is in response to the $7 Heart Attack-LabCorp outstanding bill fiasco!

    You should pay your bills on time so that you don’t run into these kind of situations, especially given the history you mentioned of a heart attack and all. You sound like millions of others who try to place blame on someone else for YOU not taking care of things in advance that need to be taken care of. Also, you were NOT denied service over $7. The fact is, you could have easily cleared the $7 balance with the Labcorp staff right there on the spot by pulling a credit card, or $7 out of your pocket, or asking even a stranger in the waiting room to loan you $7, instead of turning the whole thing into a Civil War. If you thought the $7 was an error, you could have still paid the balance on the spot so that you could have your blood drawn, then worked out this petty difference with Lab Corp’s billing office later, but instead you choose to stress both yourself out and everyone else at that LabCorp office which was very inconsiderate of you and it likely caused others who were waiting for a long time to be seen to wait even longer becaue of you not being pay your $7 bill when it was due long before you got to the LabCorp Lab that day. People like you have the self-made illusion that others are a fault for YOU not taking responsiblity for your own actions. If you don’t like stress which includes having heart attacks like you do, then don’t create stress for yourself and others, simply pay your bill when it is due, and this kind of thing won’t happen in the future.

  11. |

    Labcorp has to do some thing to get there money. People dont thank they should pay any bal. due that there Insurance dont pay. It only comes up after you have recived 3 past due bill and did not take care of it. and to the Labcorp employee just thank if no body paid there bal. due then YOU would not have a job, Labcorp would be out of buss.

  12. |

    money money money labcorp is only concerned with money. u can drop dead in their lobby and they’d take ur wallet out of ur pants n scan ur credit card so they can get paid. then they might call an ambulance.

  13. |

    The outstanding accounts receivable balance in Labcorp orginates where the accessioning is done, the employees in that department dont care and dont bother to check the reqs as they are pressured to finished the job on time. The req might have just stool or urine, but the pst location person add the venipuncture charge too. Most of the reqs upload but taking a glace wont bring the end of the world. The billing department dont have much to do with those reqs which upload to the system and they just print the bills and mail them out. Now the clients or the doctor office received the bill and of course they will have a very valid reason not to pay the bill, they hold on to the bill and labcorp cant collect the money and they dont have the capability to issue a replacement bill so no money coming in and the accounts receivable balance keep adding up until they write them off. To summarize everything still comes back to the management of the labs, they are always pressuring the employee to finished the accessioning so that they can brag. Nobody really cares for the errors nor the standards, there are tons of incorrect test codes, missing test codes and unnecessary or test not ordered by the doctors on the bill so what do you expect, on top of all there are bunch of bills with incorrect names too. All they need to do to solve that problem would be to have some kind of quality control but then we are talking about Labcorp where quality doesnt mean much speed is everything.

  14. |

    For some ungodly reason the people who come to labcorp think they own the facility! Thgey roll in with there fasting bad BREATH like they can’t brush there teeth or it will mess up there cholesterol level eventhough they are overweight and had a fatening dinner last night! Next NO ONE wants to fill out paperwork well how the hell are we supposed to print your info without it! Next No one wants to wait but but no one wants mistakes! gee- stop talking to us as we are entering patients at the desk, answering the phone and trying to pay attention to the script that you pay your dr. so much money to see you and he can’t even fill out a fucking prescription properly and he’s been a dr for how long???? The general public are nothing but Assholes! the nice ones are the medicated lithium patients need I say more!

  15. |

    To LabCorpEmployee — I can see from your response that labcorp isn’t against hiring uneducated & unsympathetic morons.

  16. |

    I just saw this post. I’m sorry this happened to you, but like everyone says do you know how many people have not payed Labcorp for their past bills? They are losing alot of money doing so. Thats the reason why they had to change their policy. If your husband was having a heart attack than he should’ve ordered it stat. When that happens then Labcorp can not refuse him at all!

  17. |

    To another employee I would have no problem paying the $3 dollars that they say I owe if it had been done in a professional manner. But they said that I had to pay a measly $3. Now come on. I work for a school district in the summer I do not make alot of money. During the school year I get paid every two weeks. They care more about the small amounts then they do the large. Why not spend the money on the large amounts. My doctor thought I had leukemia and ordered blood tests if it had not been done in the doctors office I would never go back to labcorp.

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