News5 viewer shares medical billing frustrations and gets results

Colorado AG Phil Weiser urging people with medical billing issues to reach out
Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-23 08:38:11-04

PUEBLO WEST, Colo. — It’s a debt most of us will face at one point in our lifetime, medical debt. In fact, it’s the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States and consumer protection investigators say this process isn’t always fair. News5 got involved to help a man fighting cancer in Pueblo West who was facing some billing headaches of his own.

According to this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Reportright now Coloradans hold more than $1.3 billion in medical debt and at least 12 percent are being sent to collections for that debt.

Tom Urdiales lives in Pueblo West and had the courage to reach out to News5 about his medical billing frustrations. Speaking up helped him get some results.

”They found something a little iffy and that’s when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was scared just like anyone else would be. I was worried about my health, worried about my family… I thought jeez,” said Urdiales.

He says he’s now in good health and is grateful for the care he received during this tough time, but he knew expensive medical bills would be a part of the process.

”I had three different bills, one coming from the doctor’s group, one coming from the imaging, and one coming from the hospital,” said Urdiales.

He says he tried to be proactive by calling to set up payment plans, but nobody was returning his calls. He didn’t want to get behind so he started paying anyway. This is why he says he was shocked to find out he was being sent to collections.

”In May was when I got my first collection letter,” said Urdiales. “That surprised me. I’m thinking I can see you’re cashing my checks, but you’re sending me to collections and you won’t return my phone calls.”

Unsure of what he should do next, he reached out to us at News5 for help.

”You were kind enough to reach back to me and you started the ball rolling by pushing and asking questions,” Urdiales said.

News5 made some phone calls and sent emails to some of the medical companies involved and a few weeks later Urdiales says his situation finally got some attention. He says his insurance company went the extra mile to help.

”They came back to me and my wife and I were close to being in tears because they said Tom we’re going to take care of the rest of your bills and I think that was close to $5,000. They said it’s on us. We don’t want you to have that stress. We know what you’re feeling and we will handle it from here. It was a godsend,” said Urdiales.

News5 spoke with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser about the challenges our neighbors like Urdiales are facing when it comes to medical billing and he says it’s important to contact his office because consumer investigators and top lawmakers are working to make changes to help.

”We’re working to get authority to prevent medical debt collection when people get surprise bills. We’re working to prevent medical debt collection while people are appealing the cost of healthcare itself and we’re working to cap the total amount of money that can be charged on people with medical debt,” said Weiser. “We know this is incredibly painful for people.”

Urdiales says after this experience he is taking an even closer look at any bill he gets and he hopes his story will inspire others to speak up if they need help.

”I’m not the only one out there who is having these issues because not only are you having health issues, but you’re starting to stress about it and that affects your life overall and that’s what prompted me to reach out,” said Urdiales.

When it comes to medical billing problems, consumer advocates say it’s so important not to suffer in silence.

Here are some resources to help you get more information and to find help for your specific needs:

Background and brief on medical billing from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office

Report a medical billing issue to Colorado Attorney General

File a complaint with DORA Division of Insurance

Contact KOAA News 5


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