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Patient Stories

Claudia Knafo of famed $101,000 Spinal Surgery Continues to Fight Surprise Medical Bills

Claudia Knafo of famed, $101,000 spinal surgery bill, talks with us, sharing her experiences with outrageous medical billing and her ongoing fight for health care reform.

Claudia’s passion for patient advocacy was born out of an unfair, surprise medical bill.

She was told she needed immediate spinal surgery. That if forgone, would threaten her ability to continue her career as a concert pianist. Claudia jumped into action, she did her research and set a date for her surgery with an in-network surgeon, or so she thought. Post-surgery, Claudia received a $66,000 bill from her insurance company and a $35,000 bill from her doctor. It turns out that the provider directory that claimed her doctor was covered by her insurance was inaccurate. On the hook for $101,000, she started telling her story to anyone who would listen. Legislator’s heard her. In 2015 New York enacted the strongest Surprise Bill law in the country.

Claudia continues to fight for health care reform.

Working with We The Patients, Claudia advocates to end unfair, confusing medical billing practices. Educated and very much involved in health reform and patient advocacy, she is still struggling with unfair billing in 2019. Claudia (in her own words) gives an update of her latest health care struggles:

In March 2019, I was referred to an Endocrinology practice in Manhattan, a Weill-Cornell practice. The doctor I was supposed to see did not take my insurance so the office manager selected another doctor in the group who participated in my network.

At the initial visit, the office was filled with patients and they asked me to pay (my copay) after I met with the physician. When I checked out, I got the wonderful news that the visit was $500 dollars instead of the copay of $40 I fully expected. I tried to reason with the office and I refused to pay the bill.

For months I called the billing department for Weill Cornell and they said they would contact the doctor’s office and get back to me. I received over 6 threatening bills, with the final bill mentioning collections. In my last attempt to fight this, I told the billing department that there is a law to protect New Yorkers from these kinds of surprises. I also mentioned that their office managers knew nothing about their doctors’ network statuses! FINALLY, 2 weeks ago when I called billing again, I was told that my balance was ZERO.

I would not have been able to fight this if I did not know about these patient protections put into law in 2015. Consumers need to know their rights and get out there and fight back. Do not simply pay because you are afraid to fight back. New Yorkers have protections-pass it on and use them!

Tired of hearing stories like Claudia’s? Help us Stop Surprise Bills, by signing our petition!