Former probation officer and state parks worker Samantha “Sam” Yribe is now on her way to fulfilling a dream – becoming a registered nurse.
But before the Californian could hope to do that, she had to deal with a large medical bill hanging over her head from a hospital visit. She had lost her job during the pandemic, and was paying for her own high-deductible health insurance.
The enthusiastic, outgoing 37-year-old has chronic rhinitis and asthma, conditions that put her at a much higher risk when she was struck with Covid earlier this year. She had to visit Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Diego. Her bill was $1,203, twice what she had originally expected.
Seeing the bill made her cringe, she recalls.
“I thought, ‘There’s got to be some kind of help out there for me,’” Sam recalls. “The last thing I wanted to do was go into collections. I have excellent credit, and I didn’t want my credit to be ruined.”
She did research, but found out that getting help would be difficult.
Then, a friend of hers told Sam about an Instagram feed called “Vivian, Your Rich BFF,” that told her about ways to get help paying for medical bills.
That was where Sam heard about Dollar For.
Looking at the information about Dollar For, Sam realized, “OK, this is legit – it has detailed steps, and it’s very organized. So I thought, why not?” She quickly filled out Dollar For’s 3-minute form, and learned that she would probably qualify for assistance.
Dollar For is a national nonprofit that has helped to crush over $21 million in medical bills by helping patients apply for charity care. More than half of all U.S. hospitals are nonprofits, and nonprofit hospitals must have charity care programs to keep their tax-exempt status. These programs, also called financial assistance, decrease or even wipe out medical bills for low and middle-income patients.
After Sam applied, Dollar For patient advocates helped her provide the necessary documents to the hospital. They coached her on when to call and what to say to the hospital’s financial department. In about a week and a half, she heard that her bill had been eliminated.
“I was kind of overwhelmed and excited at the same time,” Sam says. “I was kind of in shock mode – I didn’t know it would be covered that fast.” (Realistically, it often takes much longer.)
Along with eliminating her original bill, Kaiser is waiving her charges for medications and co-pays until she gets back on her feet. She’s also seeking a refund of the amounts she has already paid.
Information on how to apply for financial assistance is sometimes hard or even impossible to find, Sam found. Kaiser had mentioned their charity care program, but it was difficult to figure it out from their website.
“I got helped out by Dollar For, and I want to pass on the message and keep going,” she says. She is now working as a certified nursing assistant, and studying to become a registered nurse.