We the Patients

Patient Sued Over Necessary Meningitis Test

Meet Matt, a young man working for minimum wage in New Jersey.

One day, Matt woke up feeling awful. As the day went on, he felt worse and worse until he found himself unable to get out of bed. A friend carried him out of bed to the hospital, where he was put in a wheelchair. There, the doctor told him he should be tested for meningitis, a brain infection that could cause death if untreated. With little choice in the matter, Matt agreed.

Fortunately, the doctor was able to confirm that his condition was caused by a bad flu and serious dehydration. A few days later, he received the hospital bill. The bill totaled around eight or nine hundred dollars, a significant amount for Matt. He had only $2500 in savings from working full-time for $10/hour and spending the majority of his income on rent. Unable to deal with the bill at that moment, he put it away for the time being.

After three months, he received another letter from the hospital. This time, it said he was being sued. As Matt recalls, the hospital spoke volumes with this single act: “We [the hospital] don’t care that you can’t pay, we don’t care that it’s quite honestly 30% of your life savings right now, you pay us because you had a serious illness and you needed treatment for it.”

He called the hospital to ask for a payment plan, but they said no. And so, he was left to pay in full. As Matt recalls, “It was a pretty shocking experience to . . . have a possibly life-threatening experience and have to deal with, you know, the immediate income uncertainty that follows it.”

Watch his full story below: