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Breast Cancer Treatment Results In Surprise Bills


After a routine mammogram, Kathy Salerno was called back for a second mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy. The tests confirmed any family’s fear: breast cancer. Salerno’s surgery was successful, removing the tumor and lymph node with good margins. Subsequent tests came back clear, and Salerno’s doctors recommended radiation to kill any cancer left in her body, her husband writes for New York Daily News.

The treatment and cost seemed straight forward enough for Salerno.

Daily Kathy went for the series of 20 treatments. The office check-ins each time were as perfunctory as her mammograms once had been. At random intervals, she’d be asked for nominal sums: $15 here, $25 there.

Salerno would check in with nurses, inquiring that her financial responsibility for the treatments was being met. Throughout the course of her radiation treatments, Salerno paid roughly $170. She assumed this fulfilled her payments.

But soon after Salerno was cancer-free, a new twist came.

A few days later, a bill arrived. For $412.93. The codes were indecipherable, and we were annoyed that it was marked “past due,” as this was the first mention of any such overages. But we shrugged. Kathy was cancer-free. That was the main thing.

One by one, more bills arrived, all marked past due. They totaled more than $2,000.

Kathy demanded an itemized statement. When it arrived, we discovered that with each of those 20 trips, she was incurring a hidden charge of $55.36, plus miscellaneous charges. None of this had been broached by anyone at the front desk during her therapy, even though Kathy asked, more than once, “So we’re good on money?”

While the Salernos know that many receive surprise bills far more burdensome, the shock and frustration of the surprise bills remains. Salerno highlights the added emotional toll of the bills, saying:

[A] victory over a dread disease ends up leaving a bitter taste, and that’s a damn shame.


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