Halifax HealthI received a phone call at 11:00 AM EDT from (386) 425-4580. I didn’t recognize the number and answered the phone by simply saying, “Hello?”

The woman on the line said, “Hello. I’m trying to get in touch with Kathleen Gagne,” and my heart just dropped.

I said, “This is David Gagne. How can I help you?”

She said her name was Nancy and she was calling from the business office at Halifax Health. I asked her if the 4580 number was hers and she said that the phone system there masks everyone’s phone numbers; her real phone number is (386) 425-1136. I asked her why she was calling and she said that — because of HIPAA regulations — she could only discuss the matter with Kathleen Gagne.

I told her that I probably knew more about HIPAA than anyone else in her office, that I am Kathleen Gagne’s oldest son, that she is unable to speak for herself, and that — in the absence of surviving parents and without a spouse — Florida state law considers me a de facto legal representative for her.

Mary said that may be true, but she was only allowed to speak to Kathleen Gagne directly. I asked her if she was calling about a hospital bill and she said she was, and that she wanted to help my mother make arrangements to pay it, but she couldn’t tell me any more than that.

I told her that my mother died on Sunday, so she should probably be safe not to worry about any privacy concerns.

Mary apologized for my loss and said that she would make sure I was not contacted again about my mother’s bills. I asked her if she could tell me what the outstanding balance was and she said it was $62,036.50. She repeated, though, that it wasn’t my obligation to pay that and she was sorry to have bothered me.

I thanked her and said goodbye.

The entire call lasted seven minutes.