DENVER (CBS4) – A nonprofit that has helped hundreds of Coloradans lower their medical bills now needs help itself. The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative’s Consumer Assistance Program is in danger of folding if it doesn’t receive more donations.
And there is no other program like it in Colorado. It has helped more than 400 Coloradans shave $1.2 million off their medical bills in just the last year and a half.
Dana Bennet is one of them. She was physically and financially devastated, before she discovered the program.
“Everything seemed hard and uphill to me,” said Bennet.
Her story is an against-all-odds tail journey. Diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, she lost her job, her home, and nearly lost her life. Then came breast cancer, a liver transplant and hospitalization after hospitalization. The trauma was made worse by the thousands of dollars in medical bills that began to pile-up.
“I had pretty bad medical PTSD,” said Bennet. “Even talking about medical bills was hard for me.”
Paralyzed by the stress, she turned to the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative’s Consumer Assistance Program, which helps people with medical bills in the hundreds of dollars and in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I felt like someone had my back,” Bennet told CBS4.
The program assists people in navigating the complicated world of medical billing for free. Counselors are experts in the intricacies of health care billing as well as the bureaucracy of insurers. They file appeals with insurance companies, negotiate with collection agencies, uncover errors in bills and connect people with financial assistance.
“People can sometimes bring us bags and bags of bills… or notices that they’re going to collections and that’s pretty frightening,” said Adela Flores-Brennan, Executive Director of the nonprofit. “So in addition to having the medical crisis itself, and that’s causing a financial crisis, and then on top of that you’ve got the stress and trauma of having collection agencies calling you up looking for a payment.”
But, the program that has helped so many Coloradans now needs help itself. Donations are down.
“So we’re really looking for more support from the community. If we don’t get more support we may not be able to serve as many people. We may not be able to provide the service at all,” said Flores-Brennan.
The program needs $150,000 – $200,000 by the end of the year.
Dana Bennet says she doesn’t want to think about where she would be without it.
“People need this organization to get them through that hard stuff because they know the ins and outs of it.”
The nonprofit has also helped pass laws to make medical billing more transparent, including the out-of-network surprise billing law earlier this year.