You enter the hospital at 5:30 AM for hip surgery. You walk up to the desk and you’re asked for  money. Having endured an unthinkable period of time in sometimes ghastly pain in order to save up enough to cover your bodacious out-of-pocket maximums, plus your bodacious monthly premiums while not sacrificing other priorities (like food) you happily hand over your HSA card thinking, “have at it.”

Oh, the chagrin when the card is declined. You’re immediately furious because you know exactly how much is in that account because you checked it yesterday just to ensure this sort of thing didn’t happen. You call the 800 number. After several minutes of fielding bots while standing outside the hospital in the dark screaming “representative.”  ‘REPRESENTATIVE!” ever more loudly into the phone, you get a human.

You’re informed that there’s a daily limit on how much you can withdraw – a limitation that comes as a surprise since just about any major procedure would far exceed that limit. I return to the hospital desk, inform them of the limit, and pay that amount. This is a great start to surgery day.

A couple of weeks later, I get a subsequent bill from the hospital. I call to pay it, providing my HSA card number, expiration date, and 3-digit code.

The card is declined.

Ready to pop some stitches, I call the HSA provider. I am told that since I had tried to pay more than the daily limit on the day of my surgery, my card had been placed on a hold. This is another surprise. “Why wasn’t I informed of this?” I ask. I am told that the information is available if I go to the site, click A, then B, then C. In other words, “Find it sucker! I dare ya’!”  My blood pressure is now in aneurysm-inducing territory. “How,” I ask, “can you place a hold on the card when, after I was informed of the limit, I immediately successfully used the card?”

Silence. Then a soft, “I apologize for any inconvenience.”

Significant interactions with the medical industrial complex are already stressful as hell, largely because, if there’s surgery involved, you might die, but also because you have to pay for it, and these days, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums are often in the thousands and thousands of dollars. But now you have additional bit players—like medical versions of sucker fish on the body of a whale—extracting pennies from transactions and making your life even more difficult with careless, thoughtless procedures that introduce pain just as you prepare to have a doctor slice you up like a Christmas ham.

I have learned to deal with it by telling myself over and over as I frantically click my heels together, “it’s the best healthcare system in the world. It’s the best healthcare system in the world. It’s the best healthcare system in the world…”

-Leonce Gaiter, VP, Content and Strategy