After a Health Scare, an Unwelcome Surprise

Gladys P. was in a meeting when, without warning, she collapsed from a stroke. The 50-year-old city employee and single mom was rushed to one hospital and then transferred to another for treatment by specialists. She recovered, and felt lucky.

Then the bills arrived—over $130,000 in hospital and doctor fees, more than three times her annual salary. “That was scary,” said Gladys. She soon learned why her bills were so high: On the day of her stroke, Gladys was unable to tell hospital staff what type of insurance she carried, and thus received treatment from a series of doctors not covered by her network.

“My insurer asked why I went out of network,” says Gladys. “I told them, `I was unconscious that day! I couldn’t even say, ‘Help me,’ never mind tell somebody the name of my insurance plan.” 

Overwhelmed by the unexpected bills and in need of help, Gladys reached out to Community Health Advocates (CHA). “CHA never gave up,” says Gladys. After countless emails, phone calls, and letters, CHA helped Gladys negotiate her bills down to about $8,000.  CHA then sought and received assistance from the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, further reducing the amount Gladys owed. “It’s like a big rock on your back suddenly falls off. I could sleep at night.” She adds, “I was blessed with another chance at life and then blessed with these people helping me. CHA is fighting for justice.”

Protecting Consumers From "Surprise" Medical Bills

Every year, thousands of New Yorkers like Gladys receive out-of-network services without their knowledge—often from doctors or specialists at an in-network health care facility—and are then stuck with the bill. That all changed when CSS, working through the Health Care for All New York (HCFANY) coalition, successfully urged passage of the strongest consumer protection law in the nation to shield consumers from out-of-network surprise medical bills. HCFANY is a statewide coalition of over 170 organizations dedicated to achieving quality, affordable health coverage for all New Yorkers. CSS is a founding member of the HCFANY coalition. Read all about the new law, which takes effect on April 1, 2015. 


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