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Insured, but deep in debt

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August May’s job as a paralegal provides health insurance, so she had little reason to think having a baby would turn into a financial ordeal. But like thousands of other North Carolinians, May discovered hospital bills can be crushing, even for those with insurance.

When May gave birth to her first child on March 17, 2010, the bill from Presbyterian Hospital Matthews totaled almost $15,000.

The hospital’s contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina called for a discount to $7,788. Of that, insurance paid $5,400. Because they had a high deductible, May and her husband owed about $2,300.

When they didn’t pay quickly, the couple was contacted by a collections agency, and they arranged to make payments of $50 a month.

More than a year later, when baby Ella needed surgery for ear infections, May and her husband again got stuck with a big bill because they hadn’t met their $1,750 deductible. They owed Presbyterian Hospital $3,200, not counting anesthesiology.

After making payments for two years, the Matthews couple still owes about $4,400.

“It almost discourages you from going to the hospital or the emergency room,” said May, 32, whose family income is about $65,000 a year. “It is very sad that even with the health insurance, we owe so much money.

“We’re trying to do the best we can and be responsible,” she said. “We all know that money from our hospital bills is helping to cover the cost of everyone who does not pay their bill.”

Garloch: 704-358-5078
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