$1,541 emergency room bill reduced to nothing

Natalie's $1,541 emergency room bill has now been reduced to nothing. A big relief, but it took some work. (SBG Photo)

We're helping you fight unfair, surprise medical bills. Last time our Trouble Shooter helped reduce one woman’s bill by $22,000. Now Jaie Avila gets results for another frustrated viewer in this week's "Show Me Your Bill."

The woman in this week’s story does coding and billing for medical offices for a living. And still she had trouble making sense of the surprise bills she received after an emergency any of us could have.

Working mom Natalie Hernandez had a late-night scare most parents can relate to. Last September her daughter, Makayla, two years old at the time, stuck a bobby pin in her ear and it started bleeding.

“She was like, scream-crying, it was awful," Natalie says.

Fearing the eardrum might have been damaged, the family raced to the Christus Emergency Center on Bandera Road, where a doctor determined it was just a minor cut.

Five months later the bills finally arrived.

“That five-to-ten-minute visit is costing us like $1,500 now," Natalie says.

$928 from the emergency center. $613 from the e-r physician. For a total of $1,541. Natalie hadn't satisfied her deductible for the year, so she was responsible for all of it.

Still the charges seemed high, and being in the business, she knew insurance companies never pay full price.

“This doesn't tell me if this is in or out of network, if there was a discount given, I don't know what this is," Natalie said as she pointed to one of the bills.

The bill from the ER doctor gave no contact information for his physician group, Victoria Emergency Partners, and an internet search failed to find a phone number.

So, we went to work on Natalie's behalf and tracked down the ER doctor's personal cell phone number.

The doctor helped me contact the company COO who told me Natalie should have received an in-network price.

He dropped her bill from $613 down $217.

As for the $928 emergency center bill, Christus health agreed to drop that charge to $500.

But the biggest concession came from Natalie's insurance company, U.S. Health Group.

After getting my email, the company told Natalie they discovered she had a "secondary benefit" on her policy, up to $1,000 just for emergencies. It’s more than enough to cover the doctor and the ER.

Natalie's $1,541 emergency room bill has now been reduced to nothing. A big relief, but it took some work.

“If it's still complex for me, and I've been in this field for eight years, I couldn't imagine anybody else," Natalie said.

The head of the physicians group told us the mistake just didn't get to the right person.

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