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FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- After Helen Cowen's tests on her most recent electrocardiogram (EKG) scan came back negative for heart defects, she was relieved. However, when it came to her visit to the emergency room at Banner Health in Fort Collins, the comfort ended there.
"I wish they would have told me upfront how much this was actually going to be costing me," lamented Cowen, who was stuck with over $4,000 in bills from the visit, which included the EKG scan and numerous other tests. "I would have just left."
Cowen has a family history of heart disease. When she started feeling strange sensations in her chest, she decided it was time to visit the doctor. Unfortunately, the statewide coronavirus pandemic response shut down non-essential medical procedures, including doctor's visits.
"They said, ‘We don’t take appointments, the doctors aren’t seeing anybody. Your best bet is to go to the emergency room,'" she said.
Her visit to the emergency room included an array of tests including x-rays, a CT scan, and blood work along with the EKG scan.
"I said, 'I can just see these bills piling up.' And I just don’t think they listened to me," Cowen explained. "You are just putting your trust in doctors saying, ‘Okay I guess I need it.’ And in hindsight, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not, I am walking out.'"
That realization didn't manifest until months later in June when the hospital bill came in the mail from her insurance provider, Kaiser Permanente.
"It was over $4,000 that I owe for all these tests," Cowen said.
Now she is speaking out, seeking answers for how the bills could get so high and how she was not notified of the high cost of those bills while she was in the hospital.
"I did not have a choice. That is the whole thing that really bothers me. That I did not have a choice to go to the emergency room," said Cowen, who says she only went to the emergency room because her doctor's office was closed. "I wonder if this has happened to anybody else during this pandemic that they couldn’t see the doctors."
Cowen's plan with her insurance provider will take over two years to pay off.
"In hindsight, I wish I never would have gone. And just waited it out and just chalked it up to stress," she said. "I hope nobody else had to experience this."