LONE TREE, Colo. — When collections comes calling, you usually know what they're calling about. A Lone Tree man did not; not the first time, andmcertainly not the second.
Taking good care of his wife is what keeps Jim Samaras going.
"I'm her caretaker, and she gets whatever she wants," said Samaras, whose wife, Lora, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. "She was my soulmate when we met back in '79, and we got married, had three kids and have had a wonderful life."
Now, while she fights for her life, Samaras is fighting a different battle.
"About six weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail from a collection agency saying that I haven't paid a bill," he said.
Radiology Imaging Associates sent his wife to collections for a $30 bill he never received.
"I'm like, okay, simple mistake, somewhere it happened. I went ahead and just went online, and I paid the bill," Samaras said.
He then received a second notice that he had been sent to collections for a second bill he said he had not received, though he did receive a bill for another patient.
"I'm really wondering if this radiology company is sending out the bills, but not sending them to the right address," he said.
His quick search revealed numerous online complaints about Radiology Imaging Associates from patients who said they were sent straight to collections.
"I ended up just paying that bill or that collections notice as soon as I got it because I didn't want any of the grief that came with that," said James Greaney, who received a collections notice last year.
Dustin Blank said he was also sent to collections with no notice.
"They just didn't help out at all," Blank said. "They sent one bill, but when I asked to have them run my insurance and send another bill, they never sent it to me — just straight to collections."
Adam Fox with Colorado Consumer Health Initiative said billing mistakes can happen with addresses or misspelled names, but they have seen other types of complaints.
"Unfortunately, we do hear about some cases like this," Fox said. "It comes down to unscrupulous billing practices and, essentially, trying to collect so fast or not even bothering to bill a person's insurance before trying to bill them directly and sending them to collections. And that is not not acceptable. That is not the way that this should be handled."
Fox said it is important to make sure the provider has filed their claim for payment with the patients insurance company first, as they are supposed to. If they have and they're trying to collect payment on a remaining balance, consumers may be protected from that kind of balance or surprise bill under Colorado law, as well as additional federal protections starting in January 2022.
If a consumer doesn't think they owe a bill they've received a collection notice for, follow the instructions in that notice to contest the bill/collections, and it may be necessary to find an attorney to help resolve the bill.
Radiology Imaging Associates declined Contact Denver7's request for an interview, instead sending the following statement:
We deeply regret the billing service errors that Mr. Samaras has brought to our attention. His experience with our organization is inconsistent with our expectation for excellent customer service. We have identified a billing software error that likely caused the issues, and our team is working to make immediate corrections. We are committed to monitoring those corrections to ensure that all of our customers receive accurate and timely statements.
Samaras said his goal was to shine a light on the problem that could be hurting other cancer patients and their families at a time when they are already hurting enough.
"It's not the money. It's a principle behind what these people are doing in the fact that I'm not the only victim in this case that this is happening to," Samaras said. "When you're going through something like this, this is something that you don't want to also be dealing with on top of it."
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