Larissa Cardone’s urgent care visit was not a result of an ongoing illness, but a way to cope with losing her sister, who died of COVID-19 in early 2022.
In seeing her sister hospitalized for seven weeks prior to her death, and trying to help her brother-in-law and parents deal with that stress, Larissa hadn’t been sleeping.
“A friend of mine suggested that I go to urgent care, to see if there was something they could prescribe me to help me sleep, to help me feel calmer so that…in preparing for my sister’s funeral and everything, I could be rested,” she said.
For a 10 minute consultation, she was billed $480 — well above the average cost of an urgent care visit in the U.S., which 2021 data from Debt.org shows is $100 to $200, depending on copay and clinic costs.
“Very reluctantly, they did give me five of the lowest dose of Xanax,” Larissa said, adding that she received no testing of any kind, and there was no effort to assess her overall mental state.
The urgent care also didn’t discuss charity care, the possibility that Larissa could get financial assistance to help pay for her treatment. But Larissa remembered getting charity care from a different hospital for an illness a few years ago. Then she learned more about charity care through a nurse on TikTok, who provides insights into the medical industry and spoke about Dollar For.
After visiting the Dollar For website, Larissa said she found it to be a good way to try to reduce her bill. In August 2022, “I went through the application process, which was pretty straightforward (and) didn’t take very long to do,” she said.
Through email correspondence, she worked with Dollar For to get ongoing help and information about her bill. “The hospital was a little lagged, but Dollar For was very efficient and very quick,” Larissa said.
By October 2022, she received an updated statement of her medical care costs, showing a 25% reduction in her bill, or a new total of $360.
“I was very grateful to have that medical bill reduced. I feel like that’s something,” she said.
Larissa reflected on many of the obstacles she faced from the moment she decided to seek help at the urgent care. For instance, she didn’t know the urgent care she went to was affiliated with a hospital, making it more costly. It was also her last resort on a weekend, when her primary physician’s office was closed. (This article from GoodRx offers tips on when to use urgent care vs. the emergency room.)
“It’s unfortunate that when you get sick, the first thought you think is ‘What is this going to cost me?’ That just adds to the negative experience and also I think it adds trauma,” she said.
Still, Larissa said she’d recommend people prioritize their health and seek help from Dollar For to tackle future medical debt. “You might as well ask and see what can be done. Obviously, Dollar For helps you in that process, because it can be a little convoluted,” Larissa said.