Belle Isle man assured financial aid would cover COVID-19 hospital stay gets $33,000 bill

Axavier Strick lost his job then his insurance

Axavier Strick says he was assured his hospital stay would be covered by financial aid, but then he got a $33,000 bill in the mail.

BELLE ISLE, Fla. – Axavier Strick says he was assured his hospital stay would be covered by financial aid, but then he got a $33,000 bill in the mail.

“In my heart, I went, ‘This can’t be what I see,” Strick told News 6. “It was stunning. I had to look at the number a couple of times.”

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When the pandemic hit, Strick, like so many others, lost his job as a local entertainer, and his insurance. When he initially got sick last June, he was hesitant to go to the hospital.

“I could not afford it,” Strick said. “I didn’t want to go into debt.”

He said he eventually got so sick he had no choice.

“I was on the maximum amount of oxygen you can get prior to going on ventilation,” he said. “I resigned myself I was going to die.”

Strick says he spent eight days at Orlando Health.

After being released, and still recovering, he said he immediately applied for financial assistance.

Strick shared a letter he received from Orlando Health, showing his application for financial assistance had been reviewed. He was eligible and his account had been adjusted to a zero balance, according to the letter.

“I thought the situation was done,” he said.

But in February he got the bill for more than $33,000. It was due immediately, according to the bill.

“That was really alarming,” Strick said. “It made me feel that what they had told me was not true.”

Strick said he contacted the hospital, talked to someone and waited.

“I never did hear anything back. Never heard anything back, so I reached out to you,” he said.

News 6 was in contact with Orlando Health on Strick’s behalf on May 4, May 6, May 10, May 11 and got this response on May 12:

“While HIPPA forbids us from addressing individual patient care, in some circumstances we can rely on Cares Act funding to supplement other tools we have in place to provide financial assistance to our uninsured Covid-19 patients,” it read in part.

Susan McPhail-Taylor is the founder of RN Patient Advocates of Central Florida. She spent more than 40 years as a registered nurse and administrator and now helps patients know what they’re being billed for.

“The national study shows that about 50% of medical bills are wrong,” McPhail-Taylor said.

“It’s not that people are trying to be deceptive in hospitals or anything like that,” McPhail-Taylor said. “But it’s that there are so many entry points for information and it’s so detailed that a mistake can happen at any point,” she said.

A spokesperson for Orlando Health also referred us to information on the CARES Act.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, among other things, “provides reimbursements to eligible providers for treatment for Covid-19 for uninsured individuals,” according to the Health Resources and Services Administration website.

Orlando Health did confirm it is possible for a patient’s bill to be sent out before the hospital was reimbursed by the government. This is something to keep in mind for others who are uninsured and may have needed medical treatment for COVID-19.

So it does not appear Strick will have to pay that bill.

“So I feel much more at ease,” Strick said.

Hospital bills can be complicated, according to McPhail-Taylor.

She said patients should always ask for an itemized bill to make it easier to dispute charges.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.