Jose Saldana

By Emily Sokol
From Skeptic to Advocate: Chicago Dad’s Medical Debt 100% Forgiven

At the start of the pandemic, Jose Saldana was laid off from a job he had been in for 25 years. The dad of six was struggling to make ends meet.

Then he woke up one morning and felt something was wrong. He went to his doctor who said everything appeared normal.

“I said to the doctor, ‘It’s not normal,’” he recalled. “I know my body.”

After another few months, Jose still didn’t feel well, so he decided to get a second opinion. This doctor diagnosed him with a hernia and told him he should seek treatment immediately.

Jose went to Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago and was treated successfully for his hernia.

But despite paying $1000 upfront for the surgery, Jose then got an additional bill for $5,700. He called the hospital and was set up on a payment plan, paying $80 a month for the next five years.They didn’t mention financial assistance.

“When you’re living check by check, $80 is a lot,” Jose said. He and his family had to choose between what food they were going to buy or covering his medical bill. “You have to cut a lot of corners.”

Then one night, Jose’s wife came to him with a “hack” she had heard on TikTok. Dollar For could help Jose get hospital bill forgiveness. He thought it was too good to be true.

“Nobody’s going to help people for free,” Jose asserted. “There’s no way they can help me with my bill.”

But his wife encouraged him to apply. The Dollar For patient advocacy team worked with Jose to collect all the necessary paperwork for his charity care application.

His first application was denied. “I was ready to give up,” Jose told Dollar For. “It would make no sense for me to appeal.”

Despite his pessimism, Dollar For and Jose’s wife encouraged him to appeal again. And the second time was a charm. Jose’s debt was 100% forgiven! And he got a refund check for all those $80 payments he had already made.

Jose still didn’t believe it. He called the finance company to make sure the money was truly his. When they told him it was, he turned to his wife and said, “I should listen to you more.”

Jose and his wife used the refund to pay their household bills.

“It’s a big relief and I can buy more things for my family. I can buy clothes. I have a little baby so I can buy diapers,” he said. “As long as I have no bills and I’m healthy, I’m happy with that.”

Now, Jose is spreading the word about Dollar For. “I didn’t believe it and now I believe you,” he said. His friend’s mother went into the hospital and her looming medical debt is over $100,000. He told her about Dollar For.

“I told them this organization is really good at helping you with everything. I didn’t believe it would work but it happened.”

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