LETTER: Agency needs to get its house in order

I disagree with the July 18 editorial that islanders should use public or private funds to support the Neighborcare clinic (“Islanders must take steps to support local health services”). To be clear, the care provided at the Vashon clinic has been excellent, and the innovative clinic at the high school has been a valuable contribution to the community. But my experience with Neighborcare’s billing office leads me to conclude that the Vashon clinic’s financial problems mainly result from administrative incompetence that no amount of local support can fix.

To make a long story short, my family made a series of visits to Neighborcare Vashon from late 2016 to early 2018, all of which were covered by my medical insurance. However, Neighborcare failed to properly file four claims from 2016, and as a result, over $1,000 of claims were denied due to non-timely filing. The 2017 and 2018 claims were also incorrectly filed and required my repeated intervention to have them properly filed and paid. Throughout this experience, I was met with astonishing indifference on the part of the billing office. One supervisor angrily asked why I should care about the denied claims, since they were the ones losing money, not me. I replied that such financial mismanagement would likely result in the Vashon clinic closing, which was a concern to me. Her response was to blame the Vashon staff. But the story gets better. Even after I succeeded in having the remainder of the claims paid, and promptly settled my co-pays, I learned that Neighborcare had already sent my account to a collection agency, despite never once having billed me.

I am only one patient, but I am sure others will have similar stories. Before anyone asks for public or private funds for Neighborcare, we should require this dysfunctional organization to clean its own house. Islanders, watch your wallets.

— Robert Luke

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