Quest has sent my bill to collections — but I don’t owe anything!

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By Christopher Elliott

 After getting strong-armed into paying a medical bill she doesn’t owe, Elly Kinsella tries to get a refund from her physician’s office. Can she get her $740 back?

Question

Almost two years ago, I had my annual physical. After the exam, I received a letter from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, which I ignored, believing I had paid the bill in full.

Two months later, I got another letter from my health insurance company, and this time I opened it. It said I owed Quest Diagnostics $740 for tests that were not covered.

I called Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, which referred me to Quest. A Quest representative told me to ask my physician’s office to call Quest because my doctor’s office had miscoded my blood test.

I called my physician’s office, but representatives there told me over and over that this was “not their job.” I finally received the name of a lab supervisor who I called. Then I explained everything to him. He called Quest and got this fixed.

Then Quest sent my bill to collections. I paid the bill in a panic, hoping to resolve the problem with my physician’s office. But it has been months, and there’s no sign of the $740. You are my last hope. Please help me get my money back. — Elly Kinsella, Vero Beach, Fla.

Answer

Obviously, your doctor’s office should have coded your blood tests correctly. But there were two things you could have done differently to minimize the pain.

First — and you already know this — always open the letters from your insurance company, even if you’re sure you’ve paid them. Usually, the letter will say “bill enclosed,” but not always. Consider signing up for an online account, where you can get a billing notification sent by email.

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Second, you shouldn’t have paid the bill in a panic. You didn’t owe Quest Diagnostics $740. Collection letters can be scary, but that’s because they’re written that way. They want you to pay immediately, even if you owe nothing. I asked about the circumstances of your payment, and you said an employee at your doctor’s office urged you to pay the bill quickly. That’s terrible advice. Never pay a bill you don’t owe. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

There’s nothing you can do to ensure that your doctor’s office coded your blood tests correctly. But if office staff put the wrong code on your tests, you would expect them to correct it quickly. The “not my job” answer is unacceptable. (Related: Overcharged by Quest Diagnostics — can she get her $353 back?)

Here’s how to get help with a Quest diagnostic. I think you could have appealed this to someone higher up at your doctor’s office. The physician’s names are usually listed on their website. Although honestly, I think you need to find a new doctor. You could have also appealed this to an executive at Quest Diagnostics. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on this site.

You reached out to my advocacy team for help. I contacted Quest Diagnostics on your behalf. A few weeks later, without explanation, you received a check for $740. (Related: Need help with Quest Diagnostics? Here’s what our research team can do for you.)

“I have no words that adequately convey my thanks,” you said. “You did what no one else could do in a year and a half. Thank you.” 

You’re welcome.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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