Hospital, family tussle over bills for dead patient

Here's the kind of story that gives hospital collections departments a bad name. It seems that due to internal communication problems, a Seattle-based healthcare provider continued to bill the family of a deceased cancer patient for a service taking place four months after the patient died. Somehow, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance ended up doing a donor search for a bone marrow transplant for Melanie Smailus despite the fact that she was deceased. Since SCCA's collections department didn't have a policy in place to address charges incurred after death, workers continued to pursue the "estate of Melanie Smailus," in this case her husband Thomas Smailus, sending him at least three bills.

Though Thomas Smailus called repeatedly to question the charge, apparently the collections folks had no power to address the issue. However, when SCCA was contacted by a reporter, the institution finally wrote off the $2,700 charge and instituted a policy not to bill estates for the cost of services rendered after a patient's death.

To learn more about this case:
- read this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article