We the Patients

$5,000 in Debt for Dental Care – Lizette’s Story

I wanted to rip my head off, I was in so much pain. And they make me sign a loan?”

Working as a cashier at a fabric store in New York City, Lizette Valdovinos makes a modest income and uses Medicaid to cover her health expenses. Finding the right doctors has been a challenge. “It’s been difficult to find medical services.” She shared. “Not many people accept my insurance.”

When she began suffering from excruciating pain in her tooth, Lizette searched far and wide for a dentist who would accept Medicaid. She finally found someone at Metropolitan, who assured her she would be covered. He referred her to an endodontist, who told her a surgeon could extract the tooth the following week.

But first, she’d need to sign a loan for $5,000 to cover the cost of her care. In enormous pain and stressed from the ordeal, Lizette signed and had the procedure three days later. “They caught me off guard. But it’s hard, they know how to make you sign.”

Four days later, she got a statement from her insurance in the mail. The doctor had submitted a claim for a root canal, not the procedure that Lizette had. After hours on the phone, the doctor submitted a second claim – again for the wrong procedure. She was distraught. Medicaid told her the procedure she had – the correct one – was indeed covered.

Now I’m in debt $5,000 thanks to this guy. I make minimum wage. I don’t know what else to do.”

As a last resort, Lizette called up the lending company. They postponed payments for one month in order for her to work with Medicaid to cover the cost. She’s still fighting with the doctor’s billing manager to submit the correct claim.

Her advice to patients? “Do not sign anything before speaking with your insurance.”

Have a story to share about your health care experience? Contact us at wethepatients@cssny.org.

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