More than one third of Americans say they have been hit with jaw-dropping medical bills they didn’t know were coming.
Claudia Knafo is one of those people. She said when got the bill for a recent spine surgery, she panicked.
“I was up all night,” she told NBC Nightly News. “I just felt so horrible. I just kept blaming myself that I had missed something.”
The bill totaled more than $100,000, something Knafo, a concert pianist, had thought her insurance would cover.
“I called the doctor’s office and I said ‘this is my insurance and my neurologist has recommended you’ and they said ‘yes, just bring your card down so we can make a copy,” she explained.
She checked with the hospital, the patient coordinator and even took a picture of the surgeon’s website.
“I did beyond my homework,” said Knafo. “I did my due diligence.”
But it turns out, the surgeon had stopped taking her insurance and while the hospital was in her network, the anesthesiologist was not.
“And then I thought, I’ll have to divorce my beloved husband to protect my son’s college education,” she said of her panic after getting the bill. “I was in despair.”
Knafo is not alone. According to a recent survey from Consumer’s Union, 37 percent of people who recently went to a hospital received a surprise bill.
Eventually, she sought help from attorney Benjamin Lawsky, who supervised insurance companies for the state of New York.
He said consumers should fight bills like the one Knafo got in the mail.
“They should fight it, and they should be loud,” he told NBC Nightly News. “They should contact their attorney general’s office in their state, they should contact their insurance regulator in their state.”
Lawsky recommends doing the following to avoid a surprise bill:
Get a list of all the staff treating you – the surgeon, the doctor, and anesthesiologist.
Get written confirmation they will take your insurance.
After three years of fighting, the doctors negotiated a fee that Knafo’s insurance agreed to pay.
Has this ever happened to you? Email 10Listens@wbir.com and tell us your story.