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Posted: Saturday, Apr. 21, 2012

Surgery bills ruin her credit

Published in: Prognosis: Profits
  • Prognosis: Profits

    A five-part series examining how N.C. hospitals profit at the expense of patients.

    Sunday: Nonprofits very profitable

    Monday: Charity care lacking

    Tuesday: Suing the needy

    Wednesday: Staying strong in Raleigh

    Thursday: Policies that could help

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    For Concord resident Tracie Potee, a hernia diagnosis was the beginning of a physical and financial nightmare.

    Following a 2006 operation at Carolinas Medical Center-University and a second surgery at a Winston-Salem hospital for subsequent complications, Potee was facing more than $200,000 in hospital bills. Her insurance company wouldn’t cover the treatments, claiming the hernia was a pre-existing condition.

    Potee said she couldn’t afford to pay the bills. They amounted to more than three times what she made each year as a self-employed trainer in the mental health profession.

    Carolinas HealthCare System sued to collect its share – more than $17,000 – and won a judgment.

    Her credit was destroyed, she said. “Because of one incident, you can be financially ruined,” says Potee, now 47.

    It has taken her years to recover from the toll. “I’m just now getting my financial house in order,” she said.

    Ames Alexander

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