DENVER — When you're in the hospital or taking an ambulance, you have enough on your plate. Too often, though, Contact Denver7 hears from people who are also dealing with medical over-billing on top of that.
Our consumer investigator Jaclyn Allen discovered an invaluable (and free) resource in our community that is helping people navigate medical billing problems and challenging the system.
"It seemed unfair for such a short trip"
The only thing Katiana Brenner was worried about when her son got sick last year was him. He was only nine months old and had RSV. They went to the ER at Children's Hospital in Highlands Ranch, where doctors recommended he be transferred by ambulance to the PICU at Children's Hospital in Aurora.
Her baby made a full recovery.
Then, the ambulance bill came to more than $4,400.
"It was an out-of-network ambulance even though we were transferring between two in-network hospitals," said Brenner, who said she got no response when she tried to call the ambulance company and her insurance. "Normally, when you get a bill, you pay a bill. But my husband and I knew we couldn't just pay this, it seemed unfair for such a short trip and to not be covered by our insurance."
So, she reached out to the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative's Consumer Assistance Program, which launched in 2018.
A nonprofit steps in to help
"We get a lot of calls that start with, I don't understand why I have this bill," said Mannat Singh, CCHI's executive director, who said that in the five years since the program launched it has helped 2,658 Coloradans navigate billing issues with hospitals, insurers, and other medical providers, saving people more than $7.1 million in healthcare overcharges.
"Our case managers work with folks to find whatever resource possible," said Singh. "So, whether it is helping to file a dispute appeal, medical claims denial, enrolling in hospital discount care programs, or prescription affordability cost programs, there's always some resource that we can point folks to."
In Brenner's case, a CAP coordinator found that the ambulance ride had been coded non-emergency, even though paperwork showed it was, in fact, an emergency. Ultimately, Brenner's insurance paid covered the full amount of the ambulance bill.
"We went from owing $4,410 to nothing," said Brenner, who said CCHI really listened to the problem and did everything she could to help. "So, it just meant a lot to have somebody to help clear up the confusion, to help tell us what to do, and to let us know we weren't alone."
More and more people are asking for help with consumer medical questions. CAP reports the average number of new cases per month in 2023 is 70, which is 18% more than the same period in 2022, and that every dollar CAP spends on casework results in $11.75 in client savings.
The program also has a large impact — CAP also tracks trends, helping to inform CCHI’s policy and regulatory advocacy and the need for changes in the law.
If you'd like to request help from the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative's Consumer Assistance Program, click here.
You can also call the CCHI Consumer Assistance Program at 303-839-1261, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
CAP does not provide financial assistance, and it does not charge clients for services.
To help raise money for the program, CCHI will host a fifth Anniversary Gala for CAP at the Space Gallery on Thursday, June 22.
Editor's note: Denver7 seeks out audience tips and feedback to help people in need, resolve problems and hold the powerful accountable. If you know of a community need we can address or have a story idea for our consumer investigates team to pursue, please email us at email@example.com or or call (303) 832-7777. Find more Contact Denver7 stories here. You can also use the form below to request help from Jaclyn Allen and the Contact Denver7 Team.