"Christian" Hospital Hits Its Own Nurse With Over $800,000 In NICU Bills

"Christian" Hospital Hits Its Own Nurse With Over $800,000 In NICU Bills

Lauren Bard was subjected to a stressful ordeal after she forgot to enroll her premature daughter onto the Dignity Health's website.

Lauren Bard, an emergency room nurse at St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino gave birth to her daughter, Saide, about three months sooner than expected. Due to the precarious condition of the infant, she had to be rushed to the NICU. Despite being aware of the tremendous cost that followed, Bard didn't worry much assuming the bulk of the charges would be covered by the organization that owned the hospital. Three days after giving birth, she called up her Anthem Blue Cross health insurance, who along with UC Irvine’s billing department assured that it would be covered. However, the hospital whose marketing motto is "Hello humankindness" hit their own employee with a bill amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Bard's traumatic ordeal when she received a bill that said "AMOUNT DUE: $898,984.57." On September 21, 2018, she gave birth to her daughter prematurely at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center in Southern California. Although she alerted her insurance administrators to begin the coverage, one little detail skipped her eye. Like many employers, Dignity's plan too required its employees to enroll their newborn through their website within 31 days, else the cost wouldn't be covered. Unfortunately, it was something that Bard said she was unaware of at the time. 


Believing that she was on track to claim her health benefits, Bard spent nine days of the first 31 days recuperating post-pregnancy and had to return to the emergency room due to a subsequent infection. While struggling with her own physical health, she was also under constant stress about her daughter's condition. "Right from birth she was a fighter," said Bard. Weighing less than a pound and a half, Sadie was placed in an incubator, with a 50% chance of surviving. 


Amidst the situation, UC Irvine’s billing department informed Bard of the glitch while filing Sadie's coverage request. It was 8 days after the 31-day deadline had passed. After speaking to Dignity’s benefits department, Bard made the troubling discovery. Now, the time for enrolling her daughter was up and the mother had no other option but to depend on Dignity's compassion, whose mission according to the religious organization is "the healing ministry of Jesus." 


While coping with the complications of their daughter's condition, they begged the Dignity to change their mind. During several such calls and discussions with the supervisors, Bard remembers explaining how it was an innocent mistake on her part. Despite her requests, the benefits representatives simply informed her about the  31-day rule mentioned in the documents she was given when they hired her six years ago. Soon, the mother was hit by a wave of postpartum depression after constantly being told that the company "cannot make an exception to plan provisions."


The two ways she could go were to either file for bankruptcy or to work all her life to clear the bills. She even planned on beginning a $100 per month repayment plan according to ProPublica, which would clear her debt in about 748 years. After the outlet contacted Dignity Health regarding this terrifying story, they immediately changed their decision. Although the organization said they changed their mind after receiving "additional information" about her case, it was obvious that Dignity Health did not wish to be grilled on national news. 


"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," read the letter they wrote to Bard. She wishes to have never undergone this stressful period of time while still worrying about her daughter's survival. Now, she is urging the benefits department to be more transparent with their employees about their benefits, so that no one has to go through a similar tumultuous ordeal she was subjected to. "You can’t put on this facade," said Bard. "You have to live it. You have to walk the walk."


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