It’s hardly surprising to find out that a U.S. health insurance provider saddled a new mother with a premature baby a bill totally nearly $900,000. Lauren Bard works for Dignity Health, a California-based company that manages multiple hospitals. When her baby was born early, both her insurance provider (Anthem Blue Cross) and the hospital’s billing department said the baby would be covered.
But Bard wasn’t told, she says, that the baby had to be enrolled on her insurance plan within a month of birth. When that deadline passed — time during which she was recovering, went back to the emergency room due to infection, and her baby sat in an incubator with a coin-flip chance of survival — she was told insurance wouldn’t cover the costs.
Her bill came out to $898,984.57.
She naïvely thought she could work something out since Dignity Health was a Catholic company.
Dignity is also a religious organization that says its mission is to further “the healing ministry of Jesus.” Surely, Bard remembering thinking, they would show her compassion.
Oh, that poor woman… thinking a Catholic organization would put compassion over a money grab.
They weren’t going to budge. They rejected her appeals. They said no exceptions were possible (which was a lie). Earlier this month, she posted about her situation on Facebook:
It was only when ProPublica’s Marshall Allen found out about her bill and began asking questions when Dignity finally reversed course.
The next day, Bard got a call from the senior vice president of operations for Dignity Southern California, who apologized and said she’d heard about the situation from the organization’s media team and would help. Two days later, Dignity added Sadie to the plan, retroactive to her birth date. It would cover the bills.
Dignity officials told ProPublica that they’d learned about Bard through her Facebook post. Bard said she doubts Dignity would have reversed course without the questions from ProPublica.
This isn’t news for anyone familiar with how U.S. insurance companies work, but it’s a reminder that faith-based health care is no more compassionate — and often worse — than what you’d find elsewhere.