WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Imagine being rushed to the hospital in a life or death situation, then weeks later, getting hit with a bill much higher than you expected — maybe even tens of thousands of dollars higher.
This is a reality for thousands of Americans each year, and now Congress is trying to tackle the problem.
Last fall, 12-year-old Thomas Overton suddenly started to lose his vision.
“The physician said he doesn’t need an eye exam, he doesn’t need glasses, he needs to go to an ER now,” said Thomas’ mother Melissa.
So Melissa Overton rushed her son to the hospital, where she found out her son needed emergency surgery at a cost of $6,000.
The surgery worked, but then came another surprise.
“And then this past spring, I received a bill that changed my balance from the $6,000 I knew about to $41,000,” Melissa Overton said. “Being a registered nurse and understanding billing, I thought there was a mistake.”
No mistake, and she’s been fighting with the hospital and her insurance company ever since.
“As a single mom, I can send Thomas to college or I can spend the rest of my life paying off his medical bills,” Melissa Overton said.
She not alone. Each year, thousands of Americans are hit with surprise medical bills, which can be so high, they lead to bankruptcy.
Now some in Congress say it’s time to protect patients.
“We want to make sure there is full transparency,” said Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago).
Congressman Davis co-sponsors the End Suprise Billing Act of 2019, which would protect patients like Thomas from getting hit by surprise bills.
“There are always legislative fixes, even if it’s not 100 percent,” Davis said.
Melissa Overton spent the week telling her story to members of Congress.
“I was relieved to find out that they really understand the seriousness of it,” she said.
Melissa Overton is hoping that means there’s a prescription for change on Capitol Hill.