Glitch causes hospital billing headache
November 8, 2008
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Some civilians who received medical care at Yokota’s hospital during the past couple of years may be wondering why they never got billed. Others have gone to the hospital’s cash cage only to be told that they owed nothing.
But soon they’ll have to pay up after the 374th Medical Group’s recent discovery of a computer glitch in its billing system.
In the fall of 2006, the Coding Compliance Editor system was installed at the hospital in hopes of increasing accuracy in coding patient and billing information, Lt. Col. Kelly Klein, 374th Medical Support Squadron commander, said Thursday in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. The new system was to automatically generate bills for Department of Defense civilians, contractors and their dependents.
However, Klein said, bills were not automatically generated for all patients because of the glitch.
"During preparations for our [May 2009] Health Services inspection, we recently learned some patient encounters were ‘flagged’ within CCE and therefore a bill was not automatically generated for their care," he said.
Klein said some bills go back as far as three years, but he was unsure of the full scope of the problem.
"Until we manually push all patient encounters through CCE, we can’t determine how many people it has impacted," he said. "Since many of these bills are for the same people spanning three years, my best guess it that it impacts approximately 1,000 personnel valued at more than $900,000."
Another issue resulting from the error is duplicate billing.
"Apparently, if a patient requested a bill, the billing office could manually print a bill from the Composite Health Care System, although it was not processed through CCE," Klein said. "However, they did not track that they had done this for a few patients and the encounter was still listed in CCE."
That means customers could be billed twice for the same treatment — once from the original printout they requested and again as their hospital visit was processed through the CCE.
"This has only happened to one patient that I’m aware of," Klein said. "But it is possible there are a few others that could be impacted. We are working closely with our patients to review any bills they feel may be duplicates."
Klein said the staff is using every means available to track down former patients who may have left Yokota, including obtaining forwarding addresses from the post office and accessing information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
Klein said a letter was sent to patients explaining the billing situation and included documentation that can be given to insurance companies to request late payments.
"I’ve discussed this situation with the wing legal office and they have asked me to refer all patients who are having difficulty receiving payments to their office for resolution," Klein said. "We will do everything legally possible to assist our patients with payment."
Customers with concerns should call 225-6204 or visit the hospital’s cashier cage.