Dignity Health is a Christian hospital that hit a bill of almost a million dollars to one of their own employees after her daughter was born three months early.
Lauren Bard is a nurse that gave birth to her daughter Sadie in 2018 at UC Irvine Hospital, and she was immediately put in the NICU. Even though Bard expected her Anthem Blue Cross health insurance to cover Sadie’s medical expenses, though, and called them to enroll. Dignity Health, though, which also happens to be her employer, requires new babies to be registered via their website within 31 days of their birth, according to ProPublica, who did an interview with Bard about the situation.
Bard was later told that she was previously informed of the 31-day policy when she was hired, but that was six years earlier, before she even knew that she would become pregnant and have Sadie. So, in the immediate aftermath of her daughter’s birth, she was incredibly worried and absorbed by the fight for her baby’s life.
The little Sadie had to have several surgeries, and Bard herself had to recover from the birth. She spent time in the emergency room herself, and then, 8 days after the 31 day policy had passed, Bard was notified by the Irvine billings department that they couldn’t process claims for Sadie, who was still in the NICU.
Yes, the bill for Sadie’s care came to $898,984.
Bard and her fiance were panicked by the wave of postpartum depression, and they tried every avenue of appeal to Dignity Health, which ironically says in their mission statement that they are promoting “the healing ministry of Jesus”.
They were revoked several times in letters that stated that the company “cannot make an exception to plan provisions”.
An official with the federal Labor Department told ProPublica that they CAN, in fact, make such provisions, especially if there are “adverse health factors” to take into account.
Bard thought that she would have to either file for bankruptcy or work for the rest of her life to pay off the medical debt. ProPublica contacted Dignity Health in order to question the story, and they suddenly reversed their decision. The implication is that they were about to get roasted by the national news, even though they say that they changed their minds after receiving “additional information” about Bard’s case.
This is what they wrote in the letter to Bard:
“We based this new decision on certain extenuating and compelling circumstances, which, in all likelihood prohibited you from enrolling your newborn daughter within the Plan’s required 31-day enrollment period,”
Thankfully, Bard won’t have to pay the huge medical bill. Still, she wishes that she hadn’t had to go through this stressful ordeal at the same time she was waiting to see if her daughter would even make it, and she now urges the benefits department to be more explicit with their employees about their benefits.