Just starting out on her own a year after finishing school, 25-year-old Azka Agha is working in New York City while having to contend with autoimmune hepatitis.
She has been placed on a waiting list hoping for a liver transplant. But while starting out at work, she didn’t yet have health insurance and had to pay out of pocket for hospital visits made necessary by her condition.
“The bills were just too much for me to afford by myself,” says the young woman, a footwear designer who came to the U.S. from Pakistan to go to school.
“I live alone in Manhattan, the rent is half my salary, I just graduated from school and I’m trying to have savings, but that’s hard to do” when you have something like a large hospital bill, she says.
Azka, with a $7,289 bill from New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center hanging over her head, got Dollar For’s help and had her bill almost completely crushed.
After receiving her large bill in April 2022, she initially tried contacting the hospital to explain her situation.
She had been an international student and didn’t have a large income, she told hospital officials, but after a lot of back-and-forth, the facility only dropped it by some 20 percent – which was still too much for Azka to pay.
Looking for information on how to get help for medical debt, she learned about Dollar For on TikTok. Dollar For helped her apply for charity care this past November.
A month later, she got a letter from the hospital that her bill had been reduced – from the initial total of nearly $7,300 down to just $38. She’s still hoping for a discount on bills from her physician too.
More than half of U.S. hospitals are nonprofits and must have charity care programs available, but many people – Azka had been one of them – don’t even know that charity care exists.
“I just thought, if you can’t pay it, it just went to collection, and it wasn’t negotiable,” Azka says. Now she knows… don’t sign up for a payment plan before looking into charity care.
Dollar For’s help has been “great,” she continues: “I just wish more people have exposure to this so they know … since medical debt is something that people struggle with, and they don’t know their rights.”
Along with helping patients check if they are eligible for financial assistance at their hospital, Dollar For can assist them in preparing and submitting applications to eliminate their bill.
Azka, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, has advice for those facing large medical debt: “Just don’t panic, like I did. I used to panic a lot about the bills. Do your research and try to find other options, someone who’s willing to help to make things a little easier.”
With the $7,000-plus bill off her plate, Azka is now able to think about putting aside money for things like trips back to see her family in Pakistan, or maybe buying a house one day.
Read more stories about young adults who crushed their medical debt: Abigail, Daria, Lindsey, Olympia