Ann Arbor Rant: Let’s Talk about IHA

In Ann Arbor, there are two major healthcare providers – Michigan Medical and IHA/St. Joe’s. Michigan Medical is good, unless you’re a little squeamish about being the practice body for doctoral students in the University of Michigan medical school. IHA used to also be good, until the provider switched it’s third-party billing service, and is now punishment to all who require billing, regardless of whether they have been good or bad boys and girls.

Dealing with IHA billing is the 8th level of hell that Dante was too frustrated to write about. The third-party billing service IHA has switched to is Trinity Health Professional Billing Services, but don’t let that name fool you – unless the representatives you will be speaking with are training to deal out torture and frustration, there is nothing professional about the service you will receive. I have a family member who is literally abstaining from seeking professional treatment for an ear infection that has bothered him for approximately 1 week because Michigan medical cannot get him in to see a doctor and does not currently have an urgent care, which leaves him with… you guessed it, IHA. Just the thought of dealing with the billing errors that will inevitably result is more torturous than the pain he experiences from a burst eardrum and noticeable hearing loss. But having dealt with Trinity Health multiple times myself, I am unable to tell him that he is wrong, because, to be frank, this organization is the most inept business that I have ever encountered.

That’s right, folks. This medical billing service is worse than GameStop, which has a business model nearly as archaic as Blockbuster and people need to stop investing in it because it’s a shitty business model that preys on the stupid (sorry if you use Gamestop, but, like… you should stop). This medical billing service is worse than the Little Caesars I went to on a regular basis when I lived in the Bay Area, which had Yelp reviews along the lines of “This store gets a 1-star rating in comparison to other Little Caesars,” and which was often managed by a woman obviously strung out on crack who sometimes made people wait for hours at the counter. This medical billing service is worse than my brain was previously capable of even imagining. I think of myself as having a fairly active imagination, but I would never, in my wildest fantasies, have imagined that this degree of ineptitude would be tolerated by a medical organization that, as far as I know, does not want to go out of business (though you have to wonder…).

Now, if you have not been to IHA since this medical practice group switched billing service providers in early 2020, let’s walk through a hypothetical situation:\

You take your toddler to the IHA Arbor Park Pediatrics center on Clark Road in February 2020. While you walk up to the familiar door, you notice an 8 x 11 paper taped to it that states that IHA is in process of switching medical billing services. You open the door, espy the colorful handprints painted in the doorway, and walk through the second door to enter the waiting lobby. You check-in, including stating that there are no changes to insurance from what was provided when you first began bringing your child to IHA shortly after birth. Insurance for the family is through your work, and you are responsible for any charges exceeding what insurance will cover.

The check-up is normal; your child is fucking healthy as a horse.

You receive a bill in the mail, but it looks like the visit was not processed through insurance first. Since this check-up was a normal, required examination for a child in the first two years of life, you expect that insurance will cover most, if not all, of the cost. You look up IHA billing provider information on-line, and see that for visits made on or after January 24, 2020, you need to contact Trinity Health:

You call the number for Trinity Health Professional Billing Services, explain that you have a question about a bill you recently received, you have the date of the visit, the invoice number, etc., immediately in front of you, but the representative on the phone informs you that this bill does not appear to be in their system yet, and that you should call again in a month or so.

You move to a new residence, lose the bill you have questions about in the fracas, and are generally trying very hard to complete a move in the middle of COVID restrictions.

You call Trinity again a month or so later. They are still unable to locate your bill in their system, but update your address.

You receive a bill a month or so later, forwarded from your old address with the notice that the bill is overdue. The bill is exactly the same; i.e., there is no indication that this visit was sent to insurance. It is summer. You call Trinity, which requests the address on file, since the bill was processed in your spouse’s name and not yours. The address Trinity has on file is your old address. The representative states that the bill needs to be sent to your insurance to be processed, that she has written a note on the account to that effect, and that you should wait for the new bill that will come once insurance has processed the bill.

A month or two later, your spouse receives a notice from a collections agency that this bill has been sent to collections. Enraged, your spouse calls Trinity and berates them for not doing their job and sending the bill to collections when our understanding was that the bill was going to be processed by insurance, and the bill should be in your name, anyway, since insurance is through you. Trinity agrees to rescind the bill from your spouse’s collections. You call your insurance, which calls Trinity and does a 3-way call with you so that Trinity gets all of the information needed to process the claim with insurance.

A month or two later, you receive a notice from a collections agency that this bill has been sent to collections. The next day, you receive a bill, forwarded from your old address with the notice that the bill is overdue. The bill is exactly the same; i.e., there is no indication that this visit was sent to insurance. You call Trinity, upset that the business is not performing the duties promised to you verbally over a call. The representative you speak with claims there is nothing she can do to take it out of collections, that there is nothing documented on the account to show any previous calls over the bill. You get very angry, and the representative hangs up on you.

You call IHA to let them know you are having difficulty and that the customer service representative, whose entire job is to handle people who are probably not in the best mood, hung up on you. IHA says there is nothing they can do.

You call Trinity again, speak with a different representative, ask if you need to get your insurance to call them again to get resolved, and the representative assists.

Fall of 2020, you receive an updated bill that shows the majority of the visit has been paid by insurance, and there is a small amount remaining you need to pay. You promptly pay your bill.

Oh, also – all of this happened to me. In fact, what is stated above is a small portion of what I went through to try to pay for my children’s health and wellness visits.

So what do y’all think? Am I just exaggerating? Or does IHA seem to have made some weird Faustian deal, and been forced to use Trinity for billing as a result? Keep in mind that a casual perusal of Facebook will easily show a slew of other Ann Arborites who have suffered similar fates. It’s like IHA billing is a migraine in a bottle, and the bored “customer service” representatives at Trinity Health “professional” billing services are constantly rubbing your bottle, without your consent and against your predisposition. I can safely say that, if I have any say in the matter whatsoever, I will never use IHA personally again. I could be hit by a car right in front of St. Joe’s hospital, with a terrifying numbness where the feeling in my legs used to be, but if I have an ounce of strength left in my arms, will drag myself as far away from the inhospitable billing situation that will result as I am able.

The Quest

Recently, I went on an epic quest for a rather mundane kitchen implement.

I just needed a rolling pin.

We should have had two, but after vigorous searching, it soon became clear that we either didn’t bring it in the last move, or placed it somewhere very stupid where it likely won’t be found until we move again. But I had already mixed ingredients, and had everything nearly ready, and so I set off for T.J. Maxx in the Westgate shopping plaza, thinking there was likely one there.

After intensely scrutinizing the kitchen shelves, walking slowly through the aisles two times in total, it became clear that T.J. Maxx did not have one.

Slightly disappointed, I decided to do the sensible thing and go up Jackson Road to the Meijer right past Zeeb. For those not from Ann Arbor, this trip takes approximately 10 – 15 minutes, depending on traffic. I took the trip cheerfully enough – a little annoyed I had to trek up Jackson Road, but calmed by the certainty that Meijer would have what I needed. After all, Meijer generally has everything you might want or need for baking purposes.

Except after walking through the grocery entrance and veering off to the right, I came across yellow caution tape and empty shelves where the baking implements used to be. There was a shoddy assortment on the back shelf which I walked through twice – no rolling pin.

I found an employee, who explained that the store was re-arranging that entire session, and if it wasn’t out, they didn’t have it.

I searched the center aisle displays – no rolling pin.

My belief in Meijer’s competence waned as I power-walked out of the store, checking the time on my phone. 6:46. If I hurried, I could check Home Goods, literally right across the street from the T.J. Maxx where my search had started. I waited for another driver to take forever backing out of their parking space. 6:48. I was pretty sure Home Goods was open until 7 – If I hurried, and if I was lucky, I could check Home Goods. If I was even luckier, Home Goods would have one.

I carefully drove 2 – 5 miles over the speed limit down Jackson Road, pulling into a parking space in front of Home Goods at 6:57.

As you can see, I pretty much literally re-traced my steps.

I power walked into the store, where I was greeted cheerfully by a door greeter, and espied the “Kitchen” sign hanging over his head.

I spied it on the second to last Kitchenware aisle. The tiniest rolling pin I had ever seen. Probably just a vanity thing intended to be gifted along with an adorable cookie cutter, a precious sugar cookie recipe. But it is made of wood, and looked like it would work.

Also, as it turned out, Home Goods is open until 9 now, so I wasn’t even one of those jerks keeping the store employees there after hours. Quest: Successful. Home Goods: forever has a good place in my heart. Baking: completed.

Look at how tiny this is! For the record, I’m 5’4″ and do not have large hands.

Disappointment, Thy Name is Antonio

Specifically, Antonio’s Coney Island.

To provide some context, I have heard nothing but glowing reviews from numerous friends and from my husband. It has a 4.5 rating on Yelp – and I know Yelp ratings cannot always be trusted, since they rely on the perception of other reviewers being a fairly accurate representation of yours, but a 4.5 feels rare, and corroborated the verbal reviews I had received. Additionally, this restaurant does serve standard Coney fare, but is primarily cooking and serving Honduran-influenced food. I was expecting a lot, and I think rightfully so, given the circumstances. Instead, I had one of the worst experiences of my life at any restaurant, including the Little Caesar’s I used to go to that was pick-up only and usually operated by people whose physical and mental capacities had been noticeably limited through the use of narcotics.

This terrible episode began when we walked through the door. The location is small, which could make it snug and cozy, but instead was unwelcoming and confusing. It was missing the Coney Island sign informing good citizens who pass through the entrance of whether we should Please Wait to be Seated or Please Seat Yourself. I let my husband take the lead, because he had been to the restaurant before, and followed suit when he sat down on one of a few chairs standing against the wall. No one working at the establishment acknowledged our existence, not even a simple “Hello,” not even a smile, until a three-person family walked in and told the waitstaff who immediately flocked all around them that we were already there and should be seated first.

Instead of taking this negligence as the foreboding it was, I tried to maintain a good mood, telling myself that this was a small establishment and people make mistakes and the food is supposed to be really good, which is really what matters. Particularly since I was very hungry.

After a considerable amount of time had passed, a cute, bubbly young waitress showed up at our table to take our drink order. I will note, she did not mess these up. My husband got his diet soda, my son got his milk, and I got a Jamaica. The Jamaica was almost unbearably sweet and undrinkable, but it was the drink that I ordered. The food order, on the other hand, was another story. I don’t know if it was a matter of the waitress or the kitchen being inept, but have a feeling it was both, and the result was a horrifying experience that made my husband and I both ill.

My son ordered the enchiladas, which are described as ” 3 deep fried corn tortillas topped with seasoned ground beef, Honduran cabbage slaw, sliced tomato, sliced avocado, homemade special sauce and Parmesan cheese.” What our waitress gave him were tostadas covered with something resembling dog food that most definitely was not beef, and which, when my husband the chef tried them, we determined were not the delicious enchiladas my husband had been served on a previous visit, and we did not take umbrage to our son’s refusing to eat them.

My husband had asked the waitress which entree he should try – the fried green banana or yuca dish. She recommended the yuca, but put him down for a side instead of an entree.

I ordered the relatively safe breakfast spread, with over easy eggs, bacon, fried plantains, and slaw. Hard to mess up, although this restaurant managed it, giving me an empty cup in lieu of the side of crema, and putting the driest slaw known to man on my plate.

There was disappointment all around when the waitress gave us the bill, which, when including the tip amounted to around $50. I reluctantly pulled out my debit card. $50 is a bit on the hefty side for a Coney island, and to pay this sum for food that was not what we asked for and was noticeably worse than anything I could have made myself at home (eggs and toast, cereal and milk in a bowl, cheese and crackers, fruit – I’m not a great cook, but all of these edibles are ones that I can prepare and that would taste better) was difficult for me to do.

The stomach pangs started as we began walking back to the car. I thought, at first, I was being dramatic, or was just so pissed about being ignored as though my family and I are not people only to be served expensive food that didn’t taste well that it was physically manifesting itself. But these pangs did not go away. I remained ill for the remainder of the day. And my husband’s stomach began bothering him as well, although he is neither a hypochondriac nor susceptible to illness induced by espousal rage.

So in summation, although many people appear to have a very enjoyable time at this restaurant, at the very least, when it is having an off day, it is not only a bad experience, it is a horrible one. I ended up paying $50 at a Coney island for food that made me ill and tasted worse than if I had just pulled $50 from an ATM and eaten the paper bills instead. If you are in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and go to this establishment, what could it cost you? Do yourself a favor, and eat anything else. Literally anything.

Le Bon, Not Bad, and the Coffee

In my very first blog post, I mentioned that I drink a considerable amount of coffee. The prodigious amounts of the liquid ambrosia consumed results in my opinionated person being potentially persnickety – particularly when the standard cost of a fancy coffee these days is $5. (Because if I’m not drinking fancy coffee, why wouldn’t I just make the coffee myself at home? Isn’t that what travel mugs are for?)

For those persnickety coffee dipsomaniacs in, around, or visiting the city of Ann Arbor, let me introduce Le Bon Macaron.

This coffee shop, located on Fourth Street (right next to where Aunt Agatha’s used to be, before it closed down in August of this year) is actually a chain, and has locations in Grand Rapids and East Lansing. I can only speak to the Ann Arbor location, since that is the only location I have personally visited, but the chain seems to be a mom-and-pop sort of thing, which may mean that all locations have the same standards of quality.

Le Bon Macaron has coffee, tea, and, much as its’ name implies, macarons. Now, if you don’t like a well-made macaron, I will never understand you as a person. And this place has well-made macarons. At $2 apiece, these small delicacies are not cheap, but honestly, you probably only want to eat one or two, anyway (#pretendtobehealthy), and they are well made enough that I consider them worth the price point. Seriously, just thinking about the texture of the biscuits enveloping the creamy insides of these delicious morsels is making my mouth water. I know that I sound ridiculous – but I am actually 100% telling the truth.

Moving on to the coffee. There’s none of this large, larger, largest, bullshit. Each drink comes in one size, so the ratios of coffee to milk to syrup, etc., are made as intended and these proportions don’t get altered based on decisions of magnitude. I am personally a fan of the latte, which can be flavored with various, hand-made syrups that will make you want to abstain from the Celestial Dollar coffee forever more (although, of course, you won’t, because it’s ubiquitous and can be obtained in any location, regardless of where your travels take you). My husband likes the cappucino here, and did not make fun of me for driving a bit out of the way while running errands the other day to grab coffee at LBM, so, you know, it must be pretty good.

If you are not just grabbing coffee while running errands, you can sit down on a bar stool overlooking the street, or grab a small table in the elegant shoppe. I have no idea whether or not the decor feels Parisian, having not yet been to Paris, but it does feel simple, clean, and elegant, and I feel a small thrill when I walk through the door.


Each week, the shoppe offers a “drink of the week,” a recommended coffee drink that, if purchased, includes a macaron. So if the drink sounds like one you would enjoy, I certainly recommend taking advantage of that offer (although if it sounds like one you really do not think you will enjoy, I think you should listen to your instincts, because there’s definitely a difference between expanding your horizons and torturing yourself).

Seriously – look at how cute this cup is. How could you NOT want to go here, if you’re in AA?

If you go, or have gone, to Le Bon Macaron, let me know what drink and/or macaron you had, and if your visit was as enjoyable as mine have been. Bon Appetit!

I completely respect any decision(s) to purchase from local, independent stores instead of Amazon. If, however, you were planning to make purchases through Amazon already anyway, please consider using one of the affiliate links below (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases):