Stories from You: A Frantic Search to Avoid a Surprise Medical Bill

Zoe Harris
Assistant Policy Analyst

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Just last week, Florida joined New York in protecting patients from surprise medical bills. States like California are not far behind. As we work to advance California’s pending legislation, we are gathering stories from Californians about their surprise medical bills. Marilyn’s story of narrowly escaping a surprise medical bill is yet another reminder why these protections are so important.

Marilyn’s husband, Bob, was diagnosed with melanoma on his birthday. The dermatologist recommended immediate surgery as the cancer was between stage-3 and stage-4 and located on his abdomen, a particularly dangerous place for melanoma. They followed the dermatologist’s lead and scheduled surgery at the regional cancer center.

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After everything was set to go, the accounting department called Marilyn and informed her that none of the anesthesiologists at the center were in-network. Furthermore, if the anesthesiologist was out-of-network, the entire surgery would be billed as out-of-network. Marilyn confirmed with her insurance provider and they immediately cancelled the surgery.

They encountered the same problem at the other regional cancer center.

After three anxiety-filled months of frantic searching, Marilyn and Bob were fortunate to find  a doctor at their local hospital that was partaking in a national study on melanoma. Finally, everything was in-network. The surgery was a success and Bob remained melanoma free until his passing in 2012.

Marilyn shared that even recalling the story is stressful. She recognizes their luck in averting a surprise medical bill and how her job at the time allowed her to make important phone calls throughout the day.

Years later, the first question Marilyn asks when working with healthcare providers is, “are you in-network?” It’s a “ridiculous question,” she says, but one she recommends everyone asks until legislation is in place to protect consumers.

We will continue to advocate so consumers like you get the protections you need. Join our fight to end surprise medical bills by signing our petition. Have you received a surprise medical bill? Share your story now so we can pressure lawmakers to act.

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One response to “Stories from You: A Frantic Search to Avoid a Surprise Medical Bill”

  1. tbsbet says:

    We will continue to advocate so consumers like you get the protections you need. Join our fight to end surprise.

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