Because I have a few choice words for them.
Last year, my wife and I tried to have a baby by in vitro fertilization. This was pretty much going to be our one and only shot at having a baby with our own genetic material. We had to borrow the money from relatives, which came to over $10K all together, but people can be pretty generous when they’re going to be grandparents.
So first, we go to the office for the pre-IVF consult, they show us all the costs, and they tell us that we’ll have to pay off our bill before they’ll even begin. That’s about $900 that we hadn’t planned on having up front; we’d been paying it out, and if they’d told us that we needed to pay it off, say, a few WEEKS ago, our relatives could have lined up the extra cash. Instead, we get it sprung on us just before we intend to start (these things have pretty delicate timing, after all) that we have to dig around for more cash. Great, fine, whatever. So we pay the up-front cash they want (just shy of $9K), spend the rest on all the very expensive drugs we need, and set to work.
IVF means shots. A lot of shots. Sometimes four a day. I hugged my wife and told her how brave she was every night. When she was in tears from pain, I convinced her we needed to keep going, and gave her the shots anyway. I wouldn’t wish “sticking four needles into your crying wife” on anyone. But we did it, all of it. And she went for the monitoring visits, and all was well.
They harvested the eggs earlier than expected; we only went for four of a scheduled six monitoring visits (this is important later). They got five eggs to fertilize, and three of them took off like gangbusters. And then, they called and said they weren’t dividing. Great. So we sit through one day of waiting hell, until we hear from the embryologist the next day, and whadaya know, they’re right where they should be. Guess the embryologist checked them just before they divided the previous day, so he just thought they weren’t progressing. Whoopsie, sorry for shattering all your hopes for a day.
So after that fun roller coaster, they do the transfer. All three fertilized eggs were placed back into my wife. By this time, we’re doing more shots: progesterone, which is packaged in a thick oil and requires a thick needle to inject. Those really, really suck. Anyway, ten days after the transfer, she gets her blood drawn for the pregnancy test, and she’s pregnant. Relief! It wasn’t all for nothing! We have a very good Thanksgiving.
The week after Thanksgiving, my wife goes in for another blood draw, to make sure her progesterone levels are rising. Bad news: the level, which should be doubling every day or so, has dropped from 68 (over 50 means "pregnant) to 7. It was a “chemical pregnancy”. All for nothing. No baby for you.
So, basically, what we had was a first trimester miscarriage. It happens, and we’re sad about it, but that’s not what this is all about. That’s just background. What this is really about, is the doctor’s office.
I’m sure that, when IVF works for people, they’re so ecstatic that they just forget about all the background bullshit. But now, all we HAVE is background bullshit, and I’m pissed. A couple of days ago, we got a bill from the fertility doctor for $90. What? So we call for clarification. Apparently, checking your progesterone level, something they routinely do after IVF, is not included in the $9000 we’ve already paid them. Strange way to run a fertility business, but whatever. And there were a couple other office visits as well, which are fine, not an issue. About the same time, we get a letter from my insurance company. They’ve paid for my semen analysis. But wait: the semen analysis was one of the things we were required to pay up front, before they would let us begin the IVF. So, they got paid twice for doing one job.
My wife called to figure out what happened there. The billing clerk, or whatever the hell she is, haughtily goes to check, and comes back and says, “Well, that insurance payment was received but not applied.” Say what? So, you just stuck it in your pocket or something? What the fuck does that even mean?
So now that we know just how ridiculous their accounting is, I’m bracing for a much bigger fight: the monitoring visits. Remember how I said we paid for six, but only went in for four? I want those other two back. They cost about $398 each, and I’ll be damned if they’re getting paid for doing nothing. We were told up front that if we required more monitoring visits, we’d be expected to pay for them. We were also told that, if the doctor thought in the middle of the cycle that we should do IUI instead of IVF, that the difference would be refunded. So, the cash we gave them up front was clearly just an estimate of how much the services would cost, not an actual flat-rate “here’s what it costs, no more no less” amount. Come hell or high water, I’m getting that goddamn $800 back.
I expect a fight because one of the doctor’s husbands is the office manager, and other patients have told us that he is a notorious skinflint who won’t give up a cent. A friend of my wife’s, the one who referred us to this doctor, recently told us an even worse story: the office told her, just a day or so before her HCG shot (HCG is the stuff you take last; it makes the eggs produced by the other drugs mature and release, or something like that), that they were not going to bill her insurance for anything, and she needed to come up with the money for the rest of her treatment up front. In other words, they told a woman who had already taken a full cycle of fertility drugs and reached the point of no return that they didn’t want to do paperwork, so if she wanted to continue, she had to pay out of pocket. I don’t know what the ultimate resolution for that one was, but I do know that her latest fertility treatment didn’t work either.
Words cannot describe the rage I’m currently feeling toward this organization. They are the only fertility specialists in town, so there’s no choice. And they take advantage of people at their most vulnerable and apparently hope no one will notice. They will get no referrals from me, that’s for damn sure.
For the time being, at least, my problems are strictly with the front office, the people who handle the money. I don’t say this lightly: what they are doing, and what they have done, is just plain evil. I wish them misfortune. I wish them lifelong infertility. I wish them unhappiness. I wish them failure in all their endeavors. I wish them discomfort in their waking hours and unrest while they sleep. I wish them loneliness and despair. I wish them forgotten and unloved. I wish them trouble and ruin. I wish them loss and heartache. I wish them dread and horror. I wish them wrath and dischord. I wish them want. I wish them ridicule. I wish them emptiness. I curse their hearts and tongues, their homes, their ancestors, their names. May they suffer and repent all their solitary days and crumble rapidly to dust. May their ashes scatter to the wind. May they know no joy to their dying day.