One hospital visit, two bills

I went to dinner the other night, ordered a nice steak and salad, and a glass of fine wine. Once the bill arrived, my eyes grew slightly and my eyebrows creeped up and away from the table. The price was not the shocker; the two individual bills, one labeled “food prep,” another labeled “food service,” confused me.

I don’t see my waiter, so I grab the attention of another waiter, asking, “Excuse me, but I think you brought out someone else’s check with mine.”

“Sorry about that, sir. Which item didn’t you receive – the steak, salad, or wine?”

“I received them all – they were delicious.”

“Great. Glad we cleared up the confusion then. Shall I take your credit card?” the waiter replied, with no confusion over the two bills each with different amounts of money on them.

“Well, hold on… I think I got someone else’s bill. I only ordered the meal for myself, so I should have one bill.”

My waiter gave me the expression of a patient grade school teacher, explaining, “The restaurant bills you for the ingredients for your meal, storage of the ingredients and tools to cook your meal, and the time it took to cook your food and prepare your meal. Your waiter, however, is an independent contractor, and bills you separately.”

I sat there, fairly confused.

“So… I have to pay each of you separately? You can’t just combine it and split it yourself?”

“No sir.”

“Huh… can I speak with a manager?”

“Certainly, sir.” A manager came over shortly, reiterated that’s how the restaurant does business, and I eventually ended the meal by paying two bills. The strangest restaurant paying system I’ve ever encountered!

Okay, confession time: the above didn’t happen.

But the below did, and it’s essentially the same scenario.

I went to the hospital earlier this year.

Later, I got the bill. I got MANY bills.

I paid the bills, but over time I kept getting more bills. And I was confused, since I paid these already.

Turns out I was indeed billed twice for one single hospital visit.

Bill 1: for the doctors and staff directly employed by the hospital.
Bill 2: for a doctor who is on contract to the hospital.

All the doctors (I saw 4 of them in one evening!) looked the same.
All of the equipment was in the same room.
Yet one of those doctors was not a regular employee of the hospital, but somehow was a contractor.

Why is this happening in health care? And will it be coming to other businesses soon?

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