Widow Trapped in Kafkaesque Struggle Over Hospital Bill After Husband’s Death

After ABC News Fixer steps in, hospital apologizes, corrects billing error.

THE ABC NEWS FIXER — -- Dear ABC News Fixer: My husband died in August 2014 at Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago from an infection. He also had terminal cancer.

My problem is with erroneous charges and the hospital’s unwillingness to issue credits due to me after his death.

After Tom died, I paid two bills to Loyola on his behalf ($1,426.99 paid on Aug. 6, 2014, and $499.52 paid on Sept. 21, 2014). Months went by, and then in April 2015 I received two refund checks from the hospital for $429.53 and $499.42.

The checks were made out to “Thomas Bell – Deceased.” There was no written explanation, but these checks apparently represented some sort of refund. But they arrived eight months after he died, and his bank accounts had already been closed.

After I made several unsuccessful attempts to deposit the checks, our bank finally agreed to accept them if the word “deceased” were removed from the checks.

I have spent six months battling Loyola over this. They say they cannot reissue the checks to me. They will only reissue checks to the guarantor on the account, which is my husband. This is their error -- they should fix it.

- Kelly Twohig, Oak Park, Ill.

Do YOU have a consumer problem? Maybe The Fixer can help! Submit your problems at ABCNews.com/Fixer.

Dear Kelly: First, please accept our sincere condolences on the death of your beloved husband.

We’re pretty sure he wouldn’t have wanted you to get stuck with this truly ridiculous bureaucratic billing error. The ABC News Fixer was determined to try to shake loose your refund.

We went to the university hospital’s PR department with copies of the two bills you had paid, the two refund checks and written authorization from you under the federal HIPAA law. To The Fixer’s eye, this case should have been simple because first, you were the one who paid the bills. And second, if the billing department had only moved faster, the checks marked “deceased” still could have been deposited.

We heard back right away. It took a couple more weeks for this to get fully fixed, but the hospital reissued two new checks to you.

You also heard from a vice president at the hospital, who was, in your words, “extremely apologetic.” You said he told you this shouldn’t have taken eight months to resolve, and they’re going to review their finance procedures to make sure credits are issued on a timelier basis in the future.

You said he also mentioned they were investigating the apparent lack of customer service empowerment needed to solve problems like this.

In the end, you thanked us -- but we should thank you for maybe helping the next person from being burdened with a frustrating billing problem during a difficult time.

- The ABC News Fixer

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