Glitch produces late hospital bills

Bayfront Medical Center's software never collected from as many as 1,000 patients dating back to spring 2004.

Published November 22, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - As many as 1,000 people who had procedures done at Bayfront Medical Center are getting bills for what they owe.

The unusual part: The bills are for procedures performed as much as 18 months ago.

A computer software glitch affected bill processing for these patients, delaying them in some cases many months later than normal, said Bayfront spokeswoman Nancy Waite.

"We apologize to any patients who may have been affected by this issue," Waite said. "For anyone who received this late statement, we're committed to work out payment arrangements."

Bayfront has found the computer problem and is installing new software to fix it, Waite said.

The hospital's software sent bills to insurance companies and Medicare. But for the affected patients, the automated action that would come next - sending them a statement of the remaining balance due - didn't occur.

The glitch affected patients at random, not those who received any particular surgery or other procedure.

Bayfront officials were unsure Monday how many patients were affected, except that it was fewer than 1,000 people. They also were uncertain about the cost range of bills, which were for procedures dating back to spring 2004.

One large health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, was not aware of the problem affecting any of its patients, a spokeswoman said.

Bayfront sent letters apologizing to the affected patients and telling them they will not have to pay interest on the charges they owe, Waite said.

She also said the bills will not be treated as past due, which could affect a patient's credit.

Bayfront's business office is working with some patients to arrange payments, Waite said.

She couldn't say specifically if the late billing made payment more difficult, for example, for someone who had lost a job.

If patients couldn't pay the bill for such a reason, they could apply for Bayfront's charity care program, she said.

People who have problems with a late bill should call Bayfront's business office at (727) 893-6118.