A $36,000 bill still hung in the balance three years after Ashley Harrison first walked into the emergency room at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in the Chicago suburbs.
“I was having real bad chest pains. I wasn’t eating. My joints were hurting. I had a real horrible headache,” Ashley said.
Doctors found she had cancer. After two days, she was transferred to a second hospital when South Suburban told her they didn’t take the insurance she had through work.
Ashley spent seven weeks being treated at a third hospital as she fought off the disease.
Months later, back home caring for her one-year-old son, Ashley received a jarring letter. She owed South Suburban over $36,000 for her two-night hospital stay.
“At the time, when you’re going through a lot, you’re not feeling good. That wasn’t on my mind at all about what hospital accepts my insurance. I’m thinking ‘I’m not feeling well. I need immediate help,’” Ashley said.
The insurance claim with the hospital was pending for the next two years.
“It was always in the back of my mind. They will call every now and then and leave messages and say that it’s gone to collections,” Ashley said.
In that time, she began researching ways to get assistance with paying the bill. She contacted the Expect Miracles Foundation’s Samfund, a program established to help young adult cancer survivors.
Over 80,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S. At least 60% of survivors have medical debt. For survivors that were recently seen at non-profit hospitals, the foundation calls in Dollar For to help.
Dollar For makes charity care known, easy, and fair. We help patients check if they are eligible for financial assistance at their hospital, prepare and submit applications, and eliminate medical bills. Our services are completely free – no strings attached.
Ashley soon heard back from a Patient Advocate, a Dollar For staff trained to guide people through applying for medical debt relief. With their experience helping forgive millions of dollars of medical debt, they know how to work with billing staff and handle complications that arise in the application process.
One of those complications in Ashley’s case was that the hospital didn’t allow a financial aid application to be processed while insurance was pending. When the claim was closed, leaving Ashley responsible for the entire $36,000 bill, too much time had passed since her discharge date – prohibiting her from receiving assistance under the hospital’s policy.
Dollar For advocated on Ashley’s behalf for over six months. Her Patient Advocate was able to get the entire bill completely canceled by the hospital.
“I was shocked. It made my day. I didn’t think that was even possible, I was so excited. You hear about things like this happening to other people and then it happens to you, so I was really happy,” Ashley said.
Having the medical debt cleared allowed her to enroll in community college full-time. Now she’s on track to become a surgical technician, helping others during their own hospital stays.
Since her bill was forgiven, Ashley’s been in conversations with Advocate Health’s vice president to give suggestions on how to improve the treatment, billing, and financial aid process. She hopes her input will help her future patients receive the care they need without a financial crisis.
Read more about Ashley’s story in the Wall Street Journal.
Do you have medical debt? Our online manual and automated self-service system walk patients through the step-by-step process of applying for financial assistance.