Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, May 16, 2001

7,000 Straub patients
receive erroneous bills

Question: Do you have any information on Straub Clinic & Hospital billing its members for accounts that have not been paid? Several people I know received bills from an agency in Texas, which may be a collection agency for Straub, ranging from thousands of dollars to a few dollars. When my relatives went down to Straub last week to find out what was going on, they saw a whole bunch of senior citizens carrying the same kind of bills. They were all told, "don't worry about it," "we'll take care of it." One man was billed $12,000 and was told he probably owed only $2,000. Someone else was told they don't owe anything. My main concern is for the person who doesn't understand what is going on and just pays. Is Straub going to do anything about this, either rescind the bills or apologize for a mix-up?

Answer: The approximate 7,000 patients who received the letters should have received a letter of explanation and apology from Straub more than a week ago, said spokeswoman Claire Tong. She said the hospital was not aware of the letters until patients started calling.

Strategic Resource Management (SRM), which Straub has used to collect claims with outstanding balances more than four months old, sent the letters without Straub's authorization, Tong said.

"Unfortunately, SRM's letters to our patients not only had incomplete information, but in some cases were simply inaccurate," according to a letter Straub sent to patients. "The letters did not provide information about the date of service or the date of the original billing."

On top of that, the telephone number given for people to call was insufficiently staffed to answer calls.

Although 7,000 patients were affected, about 17,000 letters were sent, with some patients receiving multiple letters, Tong said.

Patients were told to disregard the letters. Straub is working with SRM "to ensure that another letter is sent to you in several weeks that has complete and accurate information."

Q: We were at Ko Olina Beach on a recent Saturday at the lagoon nearest the Ihilani Hotel. We had grandma with us and brought a large beach umbrella for her comfort. When I was setting it up, a hotel beach attendant said beach umbrellas are not allowed. Is that right?

A: Yes, according to Sheila Donnelly, spokeswoman for Ko Olina Resort.

"It's a safety issue," she said. Since there was no way to guarantee that people could safely secure the umbrellas and prevent them from "flopping," the resort "had to put a rule out that said 'no umbrellas.'"

That even goes for hotel umbrellas, Donnelly said.

"And we are so sorry about the tutus. But we also are worried about the babies," she said.

Some background: When developers were given permission to build the resort and several lagoons at Ko Olina in the 1980s, they had to agree to allow public access to the beach and lagoon areas.

Most people tend to go to the lagoon nearest the Ihilani Hotel, Donnelly said. The hotel is run by Ko Olina Resort.

"There is a team of people called the Aloha Team, which are employed by the resort," Donnelly explained. "All the public areas of the resort -- and the beaches are included in that -- are taken care of by the resort. So the hotel takes care of hotel property, but the beaches are maintained, monitored and cared for by the Aloha Team."

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