Weeks after Savana Rodriguez lost her employer-based health insurance, sharp pains shot through her abdomen. When she got to the hospital — Memorial Hermann Medical Center in Houston, Texas — doctors rushed her into same-day surgery on her gallbladder.
The surgery was a success, but Savana’s lack of health insurance coverage meant she had no help to cover the cost of her care. That cost became clear as bills started coming from different departments of the hospital. In total, Memorial Hermann wanted Savana to pay more than $51,000.
“I was in shock,” Savana said. “I was crying. I didn’t even know what to tell them.” A separate health issue meant Savana could not take on new work, and her family did not have the means to help her.
The billing staff at Memorial Hermann told Savana they would discount her bill if she agreed to pay nearly $900 a month, every month, for three years.
What they didn’t tell Savana was that she could be eligible to have some or all of her debt forgiven through the hospital’s charity care program. Nonprofit hospitals like Memorial Hermann are required by law to have these programs in order to keep their tax-free status. But hospitals don’t always tell patients that they can apply for this program.
At the time, Savana said, “I didn’t know that existed at all.”
Savana didn’t want the debt to ruin her financial future. She had previously found useful advice on TikTok, so she went there to search for videos about how people have tackled their medical debt. That’s when she saw a video about how Dollar For has helped people get millions of dollars in medical debt written off through the charity care system.
In a few minutes, Savana filled out Dollar For’s eligibility form. She learned that she probably qualified for financial assistance. And she could get help from a patient advocate, a Dollar For staff member who is trained to apply for charity care and prod the hospital to follow up on their application.
“They were very on top of it,” Savana said. She recalled that when Memorial Hermann did not respond to Savana’s application, her patient advocate resubmitted it, and the next day the hospital confirmed it had received it.
Several weeks later, at the recommendation of her patient advocate, Savana called to check on the status of her charity care application. Memorial Hermann said her account had no balance.
“Are you sure?” she recalled asking. “[For] Savana Rodriguez?”
Without tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt, Savana can focus on her health and her future. She wants the same thing for her mother and her sister, who each have medical bills.
“You need to go to this website,” she urged them. “They helped me and now I don’t owe anything.”