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Billed by Surprise | Blount Co. veteran's credit lowered more than 50 points because of surprise medical bill

Raymond Nelson is a disabled veteran. All of his medical care is supposed to be covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but a billing error means it hasn't.

TOWNSEND, Tenn. — A Blount County veteran, Ray Nelson, said his credit score dropped by more than 50 points because of a billing error. Nelson is a 100% disabled veteran because of his service in the First Gulf War. 

"I was lifting about 20 pounds of gear," Nelson said. "I turned, and it felt like a knife in my back, and I went down to my knees." 

He said the Department of Veteran's Affairs is supposed to cover all of his medical bills, but after a recent trip to the emergency room, they didn't. 

"As long as you let them know within 72 hours, they take care of the bill," Nelson said. 

The disabled veteran ended up with an unpaid $6,281 bill, sent to a collections office. Because of the unpaid bill, Nelson said his credit dropped by more than 50 points. 

Now, he said, he's trying to get loans to make his home more accessible. He's having trouble walking and thinks he may be in a wheelchair soon. Nelson and his wife are making doors wider and trying to build ramps instead of stairs. 

"Now I'm going to be hit with a higher interest rate, because of a lower credit score, that I have no control over," Nelson said. 

“At James H. Quillen VA Medical Center, every component of patient care is essential to us, including billing and payments. We follow VA policy and guidance regarding community care and billing and remain available to assist and guide veterans through any issues they may have,” said Dean Borsos, Medical Center Director in an email.

Nelson said, after 10News's inquiry, the VA is working to get the bills taken care of, and the collection claim removed. 

In the meantime, Nelson's home projects sit unfinished. 

WBIR is looking into how hospitals bill their patients. Hospitals in Tennessee are required to publish a list of standard charges for items and services they provide. 

Patients can report surprises in their medical bills. Sometimes they’re from errors the hospitals make: a procedure that should’ve been preauthorized but isn’t, the hospital billed the wrong code or they incorrectly classified a procedure. 

If you get a bill and see something wrong, contact the hospitals and the insurance company. If they don’t help solve your problem — contact us at: iteam@wbir.com, to see if we can help.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance offers mediation, regulates insurance and can take action when they discover situations unfair to consumers. To file a complaint, they ask you to visit their website or call 1-800-342-4029.

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