An Atlanta mother was in the middle of her cancer treatment when the hospital decided to stop accepting her Christian health care plan, saddling her with $41K in medical bills.
Laura Alley, 39, discovered a lump on her neck just months after giving birth to her fifth child. The devastating discovery landed her in the hospital, where she was recently told she could not leave until she paid her $41,000 debt in cash,WSB-TV reported.
“I’m sitting there, with a needle in my arm, receiving chemotherapy in my arm, and they are telling us that we are not going to be able to leave until we pay them $41,000,” Alley said.
Laura and her husband, Nick, were stunned their health care plan was suddenly rejected. The Alleys have Medi-Share, a medical co-op that satisfies the Obamacare mandate for health coverage. Members pay in and help cover each others’ medical expenses.
“You know, first thing I start to think about is, ‘What am I going do without my wife?’” Nick Alley said.
Medi-Share is not insurance, but it does use an insurance network called Private Healthcare Systems to negotiate rates. The Alleys said they made sure Medi-Share was accepted by the Georgia Cancer Specialists at Northside Hospital before Alley began treatment.
“I sat in front of them, in front of their computers, and handed them my card three or four times, and no problems whatsoever,” Laura Alley recalled.
But that’s not how hospital officials remember it.
“We have a contract with PHCS. We have never had a contract with Medi-Share. Because we thought Mrs. Alley was part of the PHCS plan (PHCS did not tell us otherwise), we billed PHCS for her care,” the hospital’s statement read. “PHCS gave her bills to Medi-Share, who underpaid on our contracted rates with PHCS.”
The hospital spokesperson said that, once PHCS was contacted, they were told Alley “did not have insurance with PHCS, but rather was a Medi-Share member.”
“We have never said that we accept Medi-Share. Our contract was with PHCS. Once we realized this confusion, we corrected Mrs. Alley’s account,” the statement continued. “Because she does not have insurance, she is considered a self-pay patient.”
Alley, for her part, said the hospital’s statement is “false.”
So because of the hospital’s decision to reject Laura Alley’s care and claim that Medi-Share underpaid, WSB-TV examined the bills from Northside Hospital. Each bill had a zero balance and more than $98,000 had been paid before the hospital stopped accepting Laura Alley’s health coverage.
Thanks to Medi-Share, Laura Alley no longer faces a threat of losing her much-needed cancer treatment. The current bills stand at zero because, despite being dropped by the hospital’s health coverage network, the co-op paid Alley’s bills in advance at self-pay rates.
“They wired the money,” Nick Alley said. “I mean, wired the money. What kind of health insurance company would do that, you know?”
Since receiving Medi-Share’s wire transfer, the hospital released an additional statement, saying “all billing issues have been resolved” and at no point in the ordeal did Laura Alley suffer from “delays, interruptions, or cancellations.”
The Alleys praised the medical team at Northside Hospital for their treatment.