How to Deal with a Medical Bill Mistake

August 28, 2012

Navigating the ever-confusing medical system is enough to leave you frustrated and exhausted these days.  One of the biggest pains is getting an improper medical charge fixed. A recent study by the American Medical Association found that  one in 10 bills paid by private health insurance have mistakes. That’s means you need to be extra diligent when you receive a doctor’s bill or Explanation of Benefits from your health insurance company.  The Today Show took a look at how to handle a bad charge on a medical bill on its LifeInc.com website.

A few key tips:

1. Understand your insurance coverage. Knowing your deductibles and co-pays — things you should check before you receive treatment (if possible) — will help you spot when something might be amiss, according to the Healthcare Billing & Management Association.

2. Keep track of what services you have received and what you’ve paid and keep the records.

3. When you receive an “Explanation of Benefits” form from your insurer, don’t just file it or toss it in the trash.  Be sure to read it, and if something is not being paid for, find out why. Otherwise, you could be financially responsible.

4. Don’t just pay a bill if you think something should be covered by your insurance. Some medical offices send out statements that look like bills, before receiving an insurance payment.  Check any statements against your Explanation of Benefits.

Click here to read more in the full article on LifeInc.

 

 

 

Make Telemarketing & Robocall Madness Stop!!

August 24, 2012

By Angie Moreschi:

There’s nothing more annoying than getting one of those automated robocalls where all you hear is a pre-recorded sales message from a telemarketer.  Okay, even worse, is the telemarketing call that starts as a recording, then if you finally do answer out of sheer frustration, you hear a few seconds of silence, before a live person finally answers.  Of course, if you try to ask them who they are and where they’re calling from, you find they are rude and obnoxious and usually hang up. **Click here to learn more and hear some tips from the Federal Trade Commission on what you should do to make the madness stop.

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Is Tipping the Waiter a Policy or Law?

May 18, 2012

By Darrin Clouse:

By now, the workers at the La Fisherman restaurant in Houston, Texas are probably wishing they would have just let the whole thing go.  But they didn’t, and now the story has been splattered all across the internet.

In case you missed it, a family went into the establishment for dinner and decided that the service they received was not worthy of the required 17% tip for parties over five. When Jasmine Marks informed the waiter that she wasn’t going to pay the gratuity, the staff responded by locking the doors and calling the police.

Is it Illegal Not to Tip?

Marks wanted to know if it was against the law not to tip, but when the HPD arrived, even they didn’t know what to do.

In the end, Marks took the high road and paid the bill, gratuity included, just to end the stand-off.

Obviously, the folks of La Fisherman forgot that we’re living in a world of immediate and widespread news…thank you very much internet !

Regardless of who’s in the wrong, this couldn’t have been a positive PR move for the headstrong restaurant.

Rewarding Bad Service is a Bad Idea

Personally, it’s hard not to side with the consumer here.  If you’re going to assume that a mandatory, predetermined tip amount is necessary, then you better make sure your service is up to that expectation.

Marks claims the wait staff messed up their orders and were rude in the process. So fine, losing track of what someone ordered is one thing , but the rudeness needs to be addressed, and most certainly shouldn’t be rewarded.

The opposition will claim that a business has the right to enforce it’s own policies, and if you don’t like it , eat somewhere else, but is that really the point ?

What’s the Point of Tipping?

Tipping used to be defined as a social custom, and voluntary, depending on how you felt about the service provided to you.

I understand that in the present economy, those working in the customer service business are feeling the same strains that we all are feeling, and most likely, many waiters and waitresses are working for far less than they should.                                                                                                                                      

The flip side is , consumers are more careful with spending, and less likely to pay for something they don’t feel is deserving of their hard earned money.

So what about the cops ? Well, although the law was unclear in Houston, the Bethlehem Township police department in Pennsylvania had a different interpretation of the law in 2006 when they arrested a couple for denying a mandatory tip due to their dissatisfaction in service.

What was the charge ? Theft.

Eventually, the case would be dropped by the police department, but the young couple still got to experience being handcuffed and booked for their trouble.

Should there be a price to pay in the form of a tip, even for bad service ? Feel free to let us know what you think at The Consumer Warning Network.

Reader Comments:

Walter in FL:
any tipping should always be related to the quality of service provided. I will never accept a \”pre-imposed %\”by anybody. I rather walk away. Which I have done before. Both restaurants that i did it, are no longer in business. .what incentive does a waiter have to serve you properly when he knows that no matter how bad or good he serves you he still going to get the same tipping. Also I will not cruise in any line that charges you up front for tips, unless I have a choice.

Douglas in CA :

I personally hate seeing local, state or federal government sticking their noses in where they are neither wanted nor needed. But some sensible rules may be needed here, on the subject of mandatory tipping. Restaurant workers WORK at their craft FOR A WAGE. They are paid to be there and to serve the patrons the food they have ordered. Anything else is a gratuity for a job well done – NOT something to be expected as a RIGHT in the food service industry. And most certainly, NOT an item to be included in ANY law.
IMHO – Just my 18%, or 15%, 0r 10% 0r 5% or 20% – MY CHOICE.

Garrett in NH :
A tip is a gratuity. Although understood usually customary and expected… never was mandatory or solicited
The very meaning of gratuity means a gift.
A gift can not be forced or mandatory otherwise it must be called a specified and required service fee.
I will not eat in a restaurant which has such a policy (except for a banquet perhaps).
I will accept a suggested gratuity of 17% with the establishment\’s promise to offer excellent service (which if it is excellent & pleasant i often give more than that… also if we take up the table for a longer that reasonable time).

Elly in FL :

Tipping is something you earn, period! The way I so it, though, is the following: 20% any time you (the waiter/waitress) have been courteous and nice and pleasant, possibly even fantastic. (If I can afford 25%, I do it for utmost service, regardless of the tab). This is my common tip.
If you have been barely acceptable, and I am not too happy with the way you acted, I will give you the customary bare bones 15% or thereabout.
If you have been ugly or rude, be happy to receive 10%. This has happened a couple of times.
The only reason why I tip anyway, regardless of the service is because, in Florida, waiters live off of their tips. they do not receive minimum wage bit a meager pay for their time. Therefore it is my way to compensate them for it. However, in states where I know they are paid for their work, even if it is minimum wage, I only tip really well for correct and excellent service and I don’t or leave a few coins for despicable service.
This being said, a waiter is allowed a bad hair-day.They are people just like us. When that happens I try to be extra nice with them and do my best to make them smile and relax…. Most of the time, it does the trick so, no bad feelings from either party by the end of the meal.

Remember, it\’s a 2-way street and we are to treat them with respect and kindness as well.

Hope this helps.

The Filter Bubble: Putting You in a World of Isolation

May 16, 2012

By Terry Smiljanich:

When you search on Google for something you want to know more about, your search results reflect those sites that everyone on the internet has collectively decided are the most useful sites regarding that subject – right?  Wrong. Your search results are instead personalized for you, showing you what you are most likely to click on. Another person searching on the same term may very well get completely different search results.

At first glance, that might seem helpful, but truly what’s happening is that you are being isolated from information that may not fit your current beliefs and interests. These filters, based on your past habits, are making your world smaller and in the process promoting the polarization of society.

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Don’t be fooled by “1st One’s Free!”

May 12, 2012

Have you ever wanted to buy one of those precious, gotta-have, collector’s items?  You know.  The kind that advertise: “First one free!! No obligation!!”?  Well, before you do, click here to watch CWN’s Terry Smiljanich explain why you should be careful.

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Thanks for Sharing: The Facebook Invasion

May 8, 2012

By Darrin Clouse:

Imagine filling out a job application and coming across the following demand: “Please provide your Facebook username and password,” or “Please accept Human Resources Director Jane Smith as a ‘friend’ on Facebook.”

The ever-growing presence of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter has influenced corporations, as well as college admissions to boldly request such information.

If that sounds a bit invasive to you,  Congressman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) would agree. That’s why he recently introduced a bill to Congress called the Social Networking Online Protection Act, or SNOPA.

Legislation would ban requirement

The legislation would ban employers from requiring that employees or job candidates share social networking passwords. It would also ban post-secondary schools from disciplining students for failing to provide such access or from discriminating against applicants who refuse to provide such access.

Maryland passed a similar bill last month making the practice illegal; Engel is now introducing it on the national level.

But the legislation has a long way to go, and most likely needs similar bills to pass at the state level before gaining enough strength to pass as a national act.

What to do if it happens to you?

If this effort is a little too late , and you’ve already relinquished the precious key to your Facebook privacy, don’t worry…there is an answer.

If you provided your password, of course, you can always change it later, to prevent further access. If you were forced to ‘friend ‘ a supervisor, you can take action to limit their access.

Facebook offers you the opportunity to limit your audience for all future posts, allowing you to keep someone from seeing your activity without dropping them as a friend.

Go to your privacy settings page, and under “control your default privacy”, click on “custom.”

On the tab marked “hide this from,”  just type in the friend’s name you wish to block and then click on “save changes”.

It’s that easy. Your so-called friend will be none the wiser.

To them, it will appear that you’ve just been inactive.  Meanwhile, you’ll still be able to share all your comic musings about American Idol and the pictures of the lasagna you’re eating for dinner with all of your real friends.

Edible Arrangements Causes Indigestion

May 7, 2012

By Angie Moreschi:

Consumers are always searching for something other than flowers to give as a gift, especially with holidays like Mother’s Day here.  If you’re thinking of sending something from Edible Arrangements, the company that sends fresh fruit packages, be sure to do your research, first, or you could end up with indigestion.

I recently experienced some of the worst customer service I’ve seen in a long time from a Tampa store. While one bad experience, may not be conclusive, a quick internet search of “Edible Arrangements Complaints,” bares out the fact that I was not alone.

A family member wanted to send me a nice Mother’s Day gift and ordered a package from Edible Arrangements.  She lives in Pittsburgh and called her local store, which then sent the order to a store here in Tampa, to be filled and delivered.  Apparently, that seemingly simple process fell apart when the Tampa store failed to follow the simple guideline of “calling first” before trying to deliver.

Calling First – Too Much Trouble

Twice, the company tried to deliver to my home during the middle of the day, when, of course, I am at work.  They never called the contact number provided to arrange a location or time.  Finally, on the third day, they called. I told them I would be home after 5:30pm, which remarkably, prompted the delivery coordinator to snap at me for their wasted time.  He barked that he’d already tried to deliver twice, and that they “can’t guarantee what time we deliver.” I suggested that they should not promise customers they can deliver if they can’t accommodate delivery at a later time or to a different location.

Speak Up When the Gift goes Bust

It kind of digressed from there, but in the end, I told them to cancel the order.  They did not deserve my relative’s business.  I had to call and tell her how much I appreciated the gesture, but that it wasn’t worth the aggravation the company was causing. As hard as that is to do, consumers do need to stand up and tell a loved one when a gift turns out to be a bust.  Otherwise, they will never know they wasted their money and may use the company again.

Unfortunately, the old adage holds true all too often.  “No good deed goes unpunished,” especially with the epidemic of poor customer service in society today.  But I must say, Edible Arrangements in Tampa, takes the cake… or the fruit.. as it may be… for being obnoxious and discourteous to a customer.

Top Gripes of People while Driving

February 28, 2012

What annoys you when you drive?

Texting while driving.  Going too slow in the left lane.  Drivers who cut you off.  Tailing too closely.  Taking too long to go when the light turns green… and the list goes on and on.

The top gripes that drive you crazy when you’re on the road are revealed in a new survey by Consumer Reports.  The annual auto issue is just out and in addition to the always interesting car rankings is this story on what bugs people when they drive.

Consumer Reports asked 895 Americans to score 20 common driver gripes on a 1-to-10 scale, with 1 meaning a behavior “does not annoy you at all” and 10 means it “annoys you tremendously.” About two-thirds of respondents rated two things in particular as most annoying giving both a 10:  people who text while they drive and able bodied people parking in handicapped spaces.  Tailgaters (who follow too closely behind your car), drivers who cut you off, and speeding drivers who swerve in and out of traffic filled out the top five spots.

Here are the top 10 gripes, starting with the most annoying:

1. Texting on a cell phone while driving

2. Able-bodied drivers parking in handicapped spaces

3. Tailgaters

4. Drivers who cut you off

5. Speeding and swerving in and out of traffic

6. Taking up two parking spaces

7. Talking on a cell phone while driving

8.  Not letting you merge into a lane

9. Not using turn signals

10. Slow drivers dawdling in the passing lane

Click here to read more.

Don’t Be the Victim of Cramming on Your Phone Bill

February 22, 2012

You probably didn’t realize your telephone bills may contain charges for products or services other than telephone service, much like charges on a credit card. It’s called “cramming.” Perpetrators hack the telephone billing system and place unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. As a result, you could be paying for goods or services you never ordered or received.

The scammers who pull this off tend to keep crammed charges small, to increase the likelihood that you will pay your bill without noticing the false charges. They do this on both consumer and business telephone bills, on landline and wireless bills.

The Consumer Protection Branch in the Justice Department’s Civil Division is working on trying to catch these crooks, but in the meantime, here are a few things you can do if you notice a problem on your bill:

If you see unfamiliar or suspicious charges on your telephone bill, you should:

  1. Contact your local telephone company, tell the telephone company of the cramming, and instruct the company to remove the false charge and give a credit for false charges on any previous bills, and
  2. Submit a complaint summarizing the false charges to the Federal Trade Commission.

Many telephone companies will, upon request, exclude third-party billing from a customer’s telephone bill. Doing so may prevent crammed charges from appearing on telephone bills in the future.

Click here to read more on The Justice Blog.

Shedding Some Light On Congress

September 6, 2011

This past summer we witnessed a true exercise in nonsense by our hard working members of Congress. While our nation drifted toward potential default on the federal debt, the House of Representatives struggled to overturn a Republican sponsored, bipartisan law enacted in 2007 and signed by President Bush, which mandated increased energy saving standards for the common light bulb. In four short years, the energy conservation law went from being a good idea Republicans and Democrats could embrace to becoming a Tea Party example of unwarranted government intrusion into our lives.

Thus, Representative Joe Barton (R., Texas) this year introduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB, get it?) Act, repealing any such energy efficiency standards, on the grounds that the former Act “bans” normal light bulbs and requires use of CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent Lights), those spiral shaped bulbs we’re seeing more and more often.

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