The next time you look up “self-reliant” online or in a dictionary, you might find Gail Hansen’s picture next to it.
The 63-year-old works three jobs to make ends meet, and she has never been a person “who sits around and waits for someone to help me. That’s the way I was brought up.”
But a battle with breast cancer in recent years, along with having to face a large post-surgery bill – not to mention a hospital she says wasn’t willing to help her find a way to pay that bill – left her in despair, even with thoughts of suicide.
That was when a friend told Gail about “a place” she had to visit online where she might be able to get badly-needed help with her bill.
The site was national nonprofit Dollar For, and Gail, after hesitating to seek its help, indeed got what she calls “an answer to prayer” from Dollar For – the elimination of $3,900 in bills from Houston Methodist Hospital.
Since Dollar For was founded, it has helped thousands of patients, like Gail, crush more than $23 million in medical debt.
Gail, reading about Dollar For online, remembers thinking, “It sounds wonderful, but the way my luck’s been going … I’m tired of trying to get help when I can’t get anyone to help.”
Her ordeal began with her breast-cancer diagnosis in 2018. After tests, surgeries and the constant fear of the cancer spreading, Gail also had to face a hospital she says didn’t tell her about charity care or offer to work with her on her bill.
“Their attitude was, ‘You’re going to pay your bill one way or the other. You have a deductible that has to be paid, or we’re going to turn you away,’” Gail recalls. She says the hospital even took her to collections, the first time in her life that’s happened to her.
“It’s not like I planned to have this” she says of her cancer. “This is not elective surgery, I had to have this.”
Gail, who works two jobs for a school district in her area and also has been a jewelry store employee for 17 years, faced other challenges. Her adult daughter and son-in-law had to move in with her when they were facing financial hardships.
“It was just to the point where it was hopeless,” she says. When she finally got the news in January that her bill did not have to be paid, “I cried so hard. I couldn’t believe it – my prayers had been answered. I don’t even know these people (from Dollar For), and they helped me out.”
Nonprofit hospitals are required to offer charity care programs to keep their tax-exempt status. Such programs reduce or even eliminate medical bills for low-to-middle-income patients.
Gail, who even had to sell her own jewelry and furniture in an effort to pay for her hospital bill, now feels like she “can breathe, and not have to worry about the fear of seeing a bill that says PAST DUE.”
Best of all, she has been told that she is cancer-free.
“I’m in a healing mode right now,” she adds. “I think once I can put my feet back on the ground, I’ll be OK. At least I’m not in pain, and my hospital bill is gone.”
Read about another cancer patient who got debt relief, Jarrett.