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I-Team investigates: Pain clinic says lab "gouging our customers" with $4,400 bill

Pain clinic says customers gouged

If you've ever tried to straighten out a medical bill, you can certainly relate to what a Hoover couple is facing. They're on the hook for more than $4,000 in lab tests not covered by insurance. The Rogers asked the I-Team to look into their case and warn others who may face the same bills.

Judy Rogers lives with pain. She's had neck surgery and suffers from back pain and arthritis. Pain medication offers some relief, but that relief turned into a nightmare when she got two lab bills which totalled nearly $2,200 each. For those same tests, her health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama only pays $52.

"This is ridiculous what they're charging," says Rogers. But if they don't pay up their credit will take a big hit.

Doctors order toxicology screens to monitor powerful painkillers, to make sure they're not abused or misused by patients. Rogers had tests on five of her six visits, over six months to Alabama Pain Physicians in Vestavia. Three were covered by her insurance, two were not.

"Everybody's pointing fingers. It goes on and on like a nightmare," explains Rogers. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama says it covers "four random drug tests per year, for chronic pain patients." It adds patients should be familiar with their policy or "ask their provider who should be aware of our policy." Doctors can ask for additional testing.

The lab, Quest Diagnostics, told us "every patient has different policies" and they don't know the details. A rep says Blue Cross can request a discount or patients can get on a payment plan.

"As a national company, Quest has some moral need to make it easier for people to survive," remarks Judy's husband Rick Rogers. ABC3340 News visited Alabama Pain Physicians in Vestavia. We wanted to ask why so many toxicology screens were ordered on Judy Rogers who appeared to be a low risk for drug abuse or misuse. No one was onsite to speak with us.

But in a written statement, Medical Director Ty Thomas says many patients were "receiving outlandish bills from Quest." They said the company was "gouging our patients" and the clinic has found another lab to use from now on.

Thomas was critical of Blue Cross Blue Shield policies saying "changes to curtail expenses ...makes for a difficult environment to keep patients safe." Thomas says the screens are random. "We have been in practice since 2009 and have zero overdose deaths," adds Thomas in an email to ABC3340 News.

The Rogers say they feel trapped and have paid the first bill. "People take advantage of a situation where nobody can fight back; that's not right," says Rick Rogers.

Judy Rogers has filed an appeal to Blue Cross Blue Shield. Consumers may also file complaints with the State Insurance Department in Montgomery. Bottomline know all the details of your policy, it can change from year to year.

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