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“I Might Have to Start Stripping to Pay My ER Overcharges Bill”

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Los Angeles, CADawn (not her real name) is 21 years old and trying to pursue an acting career. But she might have to put her dream on hold and start stripping to pay her outrageous emergency room overcharges. "I don't want to go down that road but there is no other way I can pay these ER bills," she says.

Or she may be able to get her $10,000 bill reduced with the help of an experienced attorney. “I know my bill would be much less if I was insured. The hospital admin even told me that if I paid cash, they would reduce the charges. This is nothing short of extortion,” says Dawn.

Dawn had been sick with a sore throat for a few days back in June but thought she could wait it out, that it could be allergies and it would pass. But one morning she woke with a raspy voice and had trouble breathing. “I had to push my tongue down - it was so swollen that it was blocking my airway,” she explains. “I drove to the ER with one hand on the steering wheel and the other in my mouth. I was terrified.”

By the time she got to the ER, Dawn couldn’t talk so she texted a message on her phone to explain what was happening - clever. After about 30 minutes she was hooked up to an IV because she hadn’t been eating and was dehydrated.

“A doctor looked at my tonsils and said they were very swollen. He gave me a steroid shot for the swelling and a pain killer in my IV and said he would rather leave my tonsils in,” Dawn explains. “I was sent home with a prescription for antibiotics and I was okay for a few weeks.

“But then it came back with a vengeance. This time I drove to urgent care and I was seen within 10 minutes. I told the doctor about my ER visit and he said I should have had my tonsils removed as they could cause infection. He gave me an IV and tested me for strep throat, which turned out positive. He also told me that the ER doctor had prescribed the wrong kind of antibiotic. I believe this second doctor because I was never tested for anything at the ER. The urgent care doctor also gave me a steroid, a painkiller and penicillin. I paid $600 - cash.”

Before leaving the ER, Dawn told the hospital administration that she had no insurance. They said she would get a bill in the mail.

“I got a bill from the ER for $350 and figured it was the physician fee so I was able to pay that,” she says. “But a week later I got another bill for $9,788.88. What the hell? And I was misdiagnosed. I have asked the Torrance Memorial Medical Center billing office four or five times for an itemized list to find out what these charges are for. I have still not received it. They also said they sent me a cash settlement form, so my charges might be reduced, but I haven’t received that either. I don’t even know if I am speaking with the hospital or a third party.”

Dawn says they just tell her that she has two outstanding accounts that are almost six months overdue and she needs to “settle right now.”

“I want to pursue this case and also sue them for pain and suffering as this has put me into depression to the point where my friends told me to phone suicide hotline. I am suffering from anxiety attacks and don’t know where to turn - I have about $20 left over every month after my bills are paid. I don’t have family to rely on because I was a foster child so I don’t have much choice than to start stripping unless I get legal help.”

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