We the Patients

Collections for a medical bill less than $1,000. — Steve Briggs, Warren County

After suffering a severe stroke, Steve struggled to do routine chores like cover his medical bills on time and in full. Despite his best efforts to keep up and repay what he owed, his bills were soon turned over to collections.  He was embarrassed and concerned, but he still couldn’t get a handle on his financial situation because of a lack of clarity around what he owed and who he owed it to. A neighbor told Steve about Southern Adirondack Independent Living (SAIL), a group that offers in-person assistance to people with disabilities. Steve told the people he met with at SAIL that his main concern was figuring out what he owed so that he could pay as much as possible — to do the right thing and catch up on where he was before his stroke. Even his advocates, however, struggled with understanding his bills. After a painstaking process to track down each bill, how much each bill was for, which hospital provided the service, and which collection agency was involved, Steve was finally able to find out how much he owed and to whom.

Steve, at age 60, had been put into collection over less than $1,000 because of confusing, duplicative surprise bills. Ultimately, Steve was able to get enrolled in a payment plan that worked for him, but without the transparency that Community Service Society’s #EndMedicalDebt campaign would provide, he was forced to navigate a series of bureaucratic challenges and subject to hospital and insurer greed, all for less than $1,000.