We the Patients

“I am Just Trying to Survive” – David’s Story

David Smith was in the towing business in West Monroe, New York for 30 years, until diabetes struck eight years ago. David’s leg began to deteriorate with infection and started dragging behind him. When he went to SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse for treatment, the doctors decided to amputate his leg up to the knee rather than continuing to treat the infection.

While grappling with the loss of his leg, David faced another challenge from Upstate’s billing department. As an independent business owner, he was insured only with Medicare Part A – which doesn’t cover doctors. The hospital did mention financial assistance was available, but then claimed he made too much income to qualify. David had only claimed a total of $7,000 from his business that year.

Finally, Upstate offered David a $200/month payment plan toward his bill. When he fell behind for a month, Upstate cancelled the plan, put the bill in collections and sued him for $9,000. Upstate settled. He has since been sued twice more for bills he was unable to pay.

David’s medical debt in collections have slashed his credit score in half, meaning he can no longer buy trucks for his business.

“I can’t get a loan, I can’t do nothin’ no more.” On top of it all, his brother is also in the hospital after multiple strokes – while David continues to fight the latest lawsuit from Upstate.

“I am just trying to survive.”

To learn more about the campaign to end medical debt in New York, visit cssny.org/EndMedicalDebt. Have a story to share about your health care experience? Contact us at wethepatients@cssny.org.

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