Stories from You: Adding Insult to Injury

Zanira Ghulamhussain
Assistant Outreach Coordinator

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

In a state of emergency thinking clearly can be difficult especially when a loved one is involved. During a time of panic, we can be so concerned with our loved ones and their comfort that we can make errors when filling out certain information. But what happens when this error results in a surprise medical bill?  For Regina, this meant losing her and her husband’s savings and retirement money adding more insult to injury.



After we reached out to Regina, to learn more about her situation, we learned that her husband had a stroke 3 ½ years ago. It was an unexpected surprise and required a heart procedure. Regina and her husband live on the border of two cities–about a half an hour outside of Pennsylvania in Hackettstown, New Jersey. The couple’s postal address is different from their actual location, so when the husband was filling out the hospital forms he accidentally gave the wrong address. Months later, the couple received a letter from the collections agency stating they did not pay their anesthesiologist, who was in fact out of network. The total bill came out to over $600. Because of loopholes in New Jersey law, insured patients going to in-network hospitals can still get hit with out-of-network surprise medical bills from doctors and lab work. Regina worked out a payment plan to pay $100 every six months, but because of this they went from living a comfortable life to having to meticulously calculate how much food they could buy a week.Since the stroke, Regina’s husband can no longer work, so paying costly medical bills is especially difficult for them.  

Patients should be notified in advance if any of their doctors, including anesthesiologists, will be out-of-network rather than receiving a surprise medical bill and letter from a collections agency. New Jersey lawmakers should listen to stories like Regina’s and pass legislation protecting consumers from these unfair bills. And if you live in New Jersey, join our local movement to end surprise medical bills! Share your story today  so New Jersey lawmakers make surprise medical bill protections a legislative priority.

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