Stories From You: Painting the Bills Away

Zanira Ghulamhussain
Assistant Outreach Coordinator

Friday, May 13th, 2016

When entering the ER, one thought is likely top of mind: pain, and how to get rid of it. In the moment, paperwork and bills are likely at the bottom on the list of worries, especially when you have good insurance. But in reality, patients should strap themselves in for the roller coaster ride of medical billing. Last year, Caitlin, an illustrator based in Austin, Texas felt the shock of surprise medical bills after being admitted to the ER for incredible pain due to an adverse reaction to a new medication.

“I was in the ER for about three hours, where I had a CT scan, fluids, blood work and a couple of shots. After paying a few initial bills ($400 or so, total) that came my way immediately, I thought my insurance took care of the rest,” shared Caitlin. But the billing saga wasn’t over.

“Fast forward 2-3 months later, and I get a letter in the mail from the hospital, requesting my assistance in contacting [my insurance company], because they’ve sent a bill and not heard back. I called [them], naively thinking it would be resolved in one call, only to be given a whole load of insurance jargon I couldn’t understand, and a final statement that the $12,000+ was mine to pay. I’ll never forget that she said to me, “I know that’s kind of high…” And I was just shocked! “Ma’am, that is my entire bank account! I can’t pay that!” And she told me to work out a payment plan, or apply for a scholarship with the hospital. Unbelievable.”

Despite multiple phone calls, Caitlin could not get clear answers from her insurance company on how to reduce her bill. The insurance jargon didn’t make sense. So Caitlin sought help from her mother and together they got her bill reduced down significantly.

This is an enormous problem, but together we will win the battle to end surprise medical bills. Stories like Caitlin’s show how surprise bills add more pain in an already painful medical emergency. Please sign our petition and share your story to help us illustrate the huge impact of surprise medical bills.

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