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Why yes, I will break the law just for you!

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A few years during the start of the pandemic I worked a call center for a billing department of a healthcare system that encompassed several hospitals/facilities located on the east coast of the United States. I worked remotely and because I was the only one who lived further west I got the late shift and was often the only one working the last two hours the line was open. Of course they refused to hire anyone else for the late shift because I was so good at handling the nightly call volume by myself.

Cue call from a pleasant representative from one of the worst health insurance companies in the US. Let’s call her Edna since she embodied the best of the company she worked for.

Edna was calling on behalf of a patient to review a bill, no big deal, it happens all the time. However, all Edna had was the patient’s name, invoice number, and a half an incorrect address. When I told her that I can’t verify the patient’s information I get this gem:

Edna: Well, why don’t you tell me the information so you can review this bill?

Because I could not believe what I was hearing I asked her to repeat herself so I could be sure she was asking me to violate US federal law.

Edna: I don’t have the other information right now but I need to get this reviewed tonight. Can’t you tell me?

So yes, yes she was. I’m not sure why she only had the patient’s name and half their address but then again, this was Edna and after talking with previous Ednas I wasn’t that surprised. She still wasn’t getting anything though.

It was the last two hours of my shift – I was tired, I had been taking back to back calls from people screaming at me because the US healthcare system sucks and I was just there to be their punching bag but being told by management to ‘suck it up’. So before I could stop myself out slipped:

Me: As someone else who works in the healthcare field I know you are also aware of how important HIPAA is and how we have to work hard to make sure we are always protecting our patient’s private information 🙂

Edna was not amused. She proceeds to rip into me that I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what HIPAA is, I’m just being lazy and don’t want to help her, etc. Whenever I manage to get a word in edgewise I cheerily commiserated that yes, sometimes the law can make things inconvenient but alas, that’s just one of the joys of working in healthcare but I know she agrees that it’s important to protect our patient’s data and I know that she works hard for make sure we keep that information secure 🙂

Finally, she gives up and hangs up in rage. Over the next half hour she calls, hangs up when she hears my voice, and calls again before finally accepting her fate and giving up for the night. I don’t know what happened with her the next day but I’m sure she managed to find someone else on my team who was willing to be a bit more flexible with the law but that’s a whole other saga.

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