By Consumers For Quality Care, on June 26, 2019
The morning she was due to fly home after a Las Vegas work convention, Colorado resident Cristina Ford began to experience contractions, The Denver Channel reports.
“When I called the doctor, what was alarming was that the contractions were very consistent, they were not Braxton Hicks,” she said. “She said, ‘Absolutely do not get on that plane unless you get checked out. I don’t want you to go into labor in the middle of the air.’”
Ford, who had suffered a miscarriage around the same point in a previous pregnancy, was scared. She called her husband, Lucas, who agreed that she should go to an emergency room in the area. Ford went to Spring Valley Hospital where she was treated for dehydration. She says she was at the hospital for roughly two hours. The couple had a basic health plan with a high deductible, so before leaving the hospital Ford paid around $1,640.
“They did the basic urine testing, that kind of stuff, I got one bag of saline and an ultrasound and that was it,” she said.
Then, the bills started to arrive.
In mid-April, a bill for $7,818.07 was sent to her house from the hospital. That same day, another bill for $2,140.87 arrived that was also from the hospital. Another bill that encompasses the initial charge was dated two days later laying out a $9,462 charge.
A few weeks later, a $114.50 bill arrived from the lab company. Then, a $1,266 bill from the emergency room physician group arrived.
“I was just in shock honestly I couldn’t help but laugh,” Ford said.
In all, the bills totaled around $15,000. The Fords’ insurer, Bright Health, agreed to pay just $3,784. They reached out to both Bright Health and Spring Valley Hospital to get to the bottom the charges. The couple says that their insurer said they could not help any more because the hospital was out-of-state. The hospital would not explain why the charges were so high.
“We don’t have $11,000 just laying around the house,” said Ford’s husband Lucas. “It’s confusing and I mean what are we paying insurance for?”
Adam Fox, the director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, notes that the out-of-network system can be difficult to navigate. He says consumers are often put in a bind, having a difficult time understanding what they owe. Fox says that some insurers are better than others in helping consumers navigate this process.
“Bright Health, in this case, is a newer insurance plan and they are still figuring out how they conduct themselves in the market, but that’s not an excuse to leave a consumer on the hook with a bill like this,” Fox said.
Bright Health maintains that the Fords had not yet met their deductible and the hospital was out-of-network. The Fords continue to try to fight the bills.
Despite the charges, Ford believes she did the right thing for the health of her baby and herself. She is working to make sure others know what she did not.
“Just be aware that this could happen,” she said. “I think it would be (the same) with any insurance company, quite honestly.”