Sorting through the mail became a stress-inducing chore for 69-year-old Rosemarie Oppito. The West Hartford woman said she received notices in the mail threatening to send her to a collection agency, all for a bill she’d already paid.
"It's making me anxious. And I don't want to go to a collection agency. I've never been in my life. I've had perfect credit. And I don't want this affecting all that. And plus I'm still recuperating you know,” said Oppito.
It started after she used American Medical Response, a national medical transport service, to travel from the rehab facility where she was recuperating from surgery to her physician’s office. Oppito said she took the service twice. She soon received a bill in the mail for $165, which she promptly paid. She never got another bill, but two days later, Oppito started getting ominous pre-collection notices in the mail. They warned that “in ten days your account will be turned over to a collection agency which may result…in adversely affecting your credit score.”
"I feel this is an injustice because I don't know why I owe this money. Why would they send me to a collection agency when I don't know why I owe this money,” wondered Oppito.
Days after the first warning, Oppito said she received another notice. This one stated that her account balance was $596.
"I have no idea what that's for,” she said.
The notices kept coming. So Rosemarie, a senior citizen on a fixed income, called the 800 number listed on the bill. She called 14 times. She said she spent up to 30 minutes on hold each time, and never got through to a soul.
"You cannot get through. They do not have a message, ‘please leave your name and number we will call you back.’ They just keep saying ‘we are busy. Please continue to hold we are busy,’” Oppito said.
That’s when she contacted the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters. We spoke with AMR, who told us that nearly $600 charge to her account was a mistake. In fact, the company doesn’t even know where that number came from. Then AMR sent Rosemarie a detailed letter explaining every single one of her charges. It showed that she owed less than a third of that $596 balance.
In a statement, a spokesman for the company wrote, “We appreciate NBC Connecticut bringing this patient's billing concern to our attention. We are hopeful that the details we provided her, in addition to our conversation with her...has answered any questions she has had regarding invoices she received for AMR's services. We will follow up with her...to assure that she has no more concerns.”
When we asked AMR why Oppito could not get through to the company’s call center, the spokesman for the company said he called the same number and got through in four minutes. So we called that number, too. We waited, and waited. It took us 13 minutes to get through to a real person. Still the company spokesman said wait times do vary, though he admitted 30 minutes seemed unusual. After all this, Oppito has some advice for AMR.
“I would say first of all if you're going to have an 800 number down, have someone there that you can speak to, and second of all get your billing straightened out,” she said.