A Georgia woman was left with $41,000 in medical bills after a hospital stopped accepting her Christian health plan.
Laura Alley, 39, was diagnosed with cancer just a few months after giving birth to her fifth child, WSB-TV reported. She had been using her health care provider Medi-Share to cover her hospital expenses.
"I sat in front of them, in front of their computers, and handed them my card three or four times, and no problems whatsoever," Alley told WSB-TV.
But then Alley received the news that Northside Hospital was no longer accepting her health plan.
"I'm sitting there, with a needle in my arm, receiving chemotherapy in my arm, and they are telling us that we are not going to be able to leave, until we pay them $41,000," Alley recalled.
Alley's husband, Nick Alley, said they thought they would be covered by Medi-Share, a medical co-op that satisfies the Affordable Care Act's mandate for health coverage. They had been covered by the health care provider up until this point.
Members of Medi-Share pay in and share each other's medical expenses. It does not qualify as insurance, but uses an insurance network called Private Healthcare Systems to negotiate rates.
Northside Hospital issued the following statement to the news station:
We have a contract with PHCS. We have never had a contract with Medi-Share. Because we thought Mrs. Alley was part of the PHCS plan (PHCS did not tell us otherwise), we billed PHCS for her care. PHCS gave her bills to Medi-Share, who underpaid on our contracted rates with PHCS.
When we contacted PHCS about the underpayment, they alerted us that the patient did not have insurance with PHCS, but rather was a Medi-Share member.
We have never said that we accept Medi-Share. Our contract was with PHCS. Once we realized this confusion, we corrected Mrs. Alley’s account. Because she does not have insurance, she is considered a self-pay patient. We have provided her with multiple options to reduce and satisfy the remaining balance on her account.
We did not tell the patient that she was 'pre-certified.' When our staff called PHCS to ask if pre-authorization was needed, they told us that it was not.
It was later revealed that more than $98,000 in medical bills had already been paid, or discounted before the hospital stopped accepting Medi-Share. Alley is no longer in danger of losing her health care coverage, and currently has a zero balance because Medi-Share paid it in advance.
“In the time since WSB-TV first contacted Northside for this story, the patient has continued her medical treatments with no delays, interruptions or cancellations," the hospital said in a statement on July 26. "Her care has been our top priority from the beginning of her treatment. We consistently worked with the patient on her billing status, and all billing issues have been resolved.”
Alley added that, despite the billing dispute, the hospital staff has given her outstanding care during her cancer treatment.
President Donald Trump continues to put the pressure on House Republicans to repeal and replace the ACA, also known as Obamacare.
"Come on Republican Senators, you can do it on Healthcare," the president tweeted on July 27. "After 7 years, this is your chance to shine! Don't let the American people down!"