Guest Post — July 31, 2013
Note from Dan: Betty Gallagher is a grandmother from Hillsville. Her grandson suffered a life-threatening head injury, and her whole family suffered through a billing experience courtesy of the medevac company Med Trans, which was the subject of my column Tuesday.
By Betty Gallagher
On Sept. 9, 2010 my grandson Stephen fell off a skateboard and had a skull fracture with an extra-axial hematoma measuring approx. 1.5 cm thick just under the fracture. He was 16 and just beginning his junior year of high school. Twin County Regional Hospital, Galax, Va. called Med Trans to transport him to Baptist Hospital, Winston-Salem, N.C.
My son is a single dad trying to raise his son. He had Anthem insurance with $2,500 deductible. He paid the $2,500 deductible and was broke. He had expenses going back and forth to Winston during Stephen’s hospitalization and his car blew up.
The bill from Med Trans came in. $19, 710 and Anthem paid $5,458.40. That left Richard owing $14,251.60. I will repeat: a single Dad making a house payment, a car payment and trying to raise his son.
At first Med Trans led us to believe that Anthem didn’t consider the air transportation a necessity. Dr. Sabol from Twin County wrote a letter explaining that Stephen had an epidural bleed which exerted tremendous pressure on the brain tissue and that it was mandatory that he be in a hospital with neurological services available.
As Dr. Sabol said “this young man had the rest of a life to live and should be seen by a neurosurgeon immediately so that the rest of his life could be lived normally.” Dr. Couture, neurologist from Baptist, wrote Anthem that Stephen had an extremely life-threatening condition which required immediate transfer to a tertiary care facility as soon as possible.
Anthem still denied payment. In fact we later found out that Anthem had never questioned the necessity but that the policy only allowed them to pay the $5,458.40.
I contacted our state Sen. Roscoe Reynolds and he in turn contacted the head of the State Health Department. Sen. Reynolds also contacted Anthem. The Health Department investigated and nothing could be done. Sen. Reynolds also contacted the chairman of Twin County in an effort to make them more aware of the burden being placed on patients.
My son filled out paper work and applied for help from Med Trans and he was denied. He asked for assistance from them twice. Both times denied. Med Trans wanted him to pay $593.82 per month on a 12-month plan or $118.76 per month on a 60-month plan. There were other plans for 24, 36, 48 months.
Finally, after about 8 months Med Trans reduced the bill to $7,125.80. Richard couldn’t afford any of the plans. Stephen was getting ready to graduate high school and wanted to go to college.
Stephen felt guilty because he had the accident and caused the problem. Richard felt guilty because he didn’t have the money to pay the bill. We (grandparents) felt guilty because it happened when Stephen was staying with us. It was tearing our family apart.
Finally, in May 2013 I made an offer to Med Trans for what we could afford to pay and told them in so many words that it would be all they would ever get. They accepted my offer. I used money that we had saved for Stephen’s education to pay it off.
We are very grateful that Stephen survived with no side effects. He graduated high school in May with a 3.2 GPA and an advanced diploma with Governor’s Seal. He has been working every day since April 1 to save money and he will be a student at Wytheville Community College this fall. In fact, Stephen graduated high school a semester early and got a few college courses out of the way during spring semester.
I don’t want to hear another politician spout off about this country not needing health care reform. I don’t want to see another company find a way to get around laws as quickly as they are made. If my son had been lazy and not working he could have had all the help he needed. I wonder when politicians will get the idea that this country is only as strong as the weakest of us all.
I truly believe that the Republican Party has turned into an “I got mine. Too bad about you” party. And yet they are the first hogs at the trough.
P.S. Boy, it feels good to unload all of this!