Burn off victim’s $1.7 million medical monthly bill from navy hospital is waived


A Puerto Rican person who experienced burns over most of his entire body in a fuel explosion and was treated at a U.S. army hospital in Texas, and who afterwards obtained a monthly bill from the government for $1.7 million, has experienced his medical financial debt waived.

As “CBS This Morning” documented previously this yr, 25-calendar year-previous Alexis Hernandez, a Puerto Rican resident who was studying medicine in Mexico, was billed for his treatment at a burn off center situated at the Brooke Military Medical Center in San Antonio.

CBS Information client investigative correspondent Anna Werner introduced us the story of Hernandez, who has been ready almost two decades for somebody to assist him with the substantial invoice. And now, just after two users of Congress responded to our broadcast, Hernandez obtained good information: navy officials had waived the monthly bill, with authorization from the Justice Division.

“Now, I know that anything at all is feasible,” Hernandez explained.

Werner requested, “How do you come to feel now that this bodyweight has been lifted off your shoulders?”

“I come to feel excellent, simply because I have 1.7 million factors to smile!” he replied.

A gas explosion in his apartment had still left Hernandez with burns masking over 70 per cent of his human body, and he was sent for specialised treatment at that burn up centre. He expended seven months there, enduring 19 surgeries.

And as he informed us before this yr, “It was truly agonizing. I cannot specific in phrases how distressing it was.”

With a $1.7 million invoice hanging more than his head, Hernandez possibly faced a life time of credit card debt, and anxious he could hardly ever be in a position to return to medical college. “I’m not going to be ready to pay it,” he claimed.

Following Werner explained to his tale, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who herself was born in Puerto Rico, wrote the Treasury Section inquiring that the monthly bill be forgiven.

“This could happen to any other person, any other American,” she claimed.

Representative Joaquin Castro, who signifies San Antonio, also contacted government officers. He reported, “It’s a tragic tale, and we have noticed circumstances like that in Texas about and above.”

Situations like Hernandez’s are the explanation Castro initiated legislation, which handed very last yr, that allows armed forces officials to waive medical bills for civilians who are not able to pay back who obtained “emergency medical treatment.”

“Oftentimes, people are unconscious and not building a decision about which healthcare facility they’re likely to go to,” Castro stated.

He mentioned there is a very good cause why expenses for civilian patients who cannot afford to pay really should be waived: “This is a education medical center exactly where members of our military services prepare on managing trauma,” Castro reported. “And so, there is a reward to the United States govt and to the armed service of staying able to see these people. And yet, that really wasn’t staying taken into account when folks had been becoming charged.”

Despite the legislation improve, “CBS This Morning” located some persons still waiting around for a waiver.

Ernest Faris, a 52-yr-aged welder from Fisher, Texas, endured a neck fracture in August 2018, after falling some 20 feet off a ladder. Unexpected emergency responders airlifted him to Brooke Army Medical Center’s trauma device, exactly where he remained for a 7 days.

“Just recall hurting actual poor,” Faris claimed. “They set pins and screws in my neck. It broke it in two places, I imagine. So, I’m incredibly fortunate to even be alive.”

An X-ray exhibits pins and screws applied to restore Ernest Faris’ broken neck. Credit: Ernest Faris

The bill from Brooke Military? In excess of $114,000, which he had no insurance policy to include. The greatest he stated the government would do was give a payment approach of $4,000 a month.

“It would have been unattainable,” Faris mentioned. “There would have been no way, and I instructed her that on the mobile phone. I explained, ‘Ma’am,’ I said, ‘I really don’t even make that much a month.’”

So, earlier this yr, the federal government begun garnishing his wages, getting above $470 every single thirty day period.

Faris mentioned, “I have no manage more than this. They’re likely to acquire whatsoever sum of cash they want, and I have no regulate in excess of it.”

Faris explained the authorities also seized his tax refund, and with desire and penalties, the debt keeps mounting. It now stands at above $159,000. “It’s not building a dent in it, so I’ll most likely by no means get it paid for,” he stated. “I imply, you work your entire life, to someday be equipped to retire. Just attempt to go on with lifetime the finest I can, but, you know, knowing that is there, it is really sickening.”

Brooke Military Medical Heart officials did not answer to our inquiries about Faris’ case, but said they get the job done “diligently to teach clients about the billing system,” and that they adhere to “regulations and insurance policies for collections of federal debt.”

A Treasury Section spokesperson advised CBS Information, “By legislation, when companies, such as the Section of Defense, initiate claims, the Bureau of the Fiscal Services is demanded to help in the collection of money owed that are legitimate. The Bureau of the Fiscal Company operates with the federal companies to ensure these who owe financial debt receive right notices and prospects to dispute money owed as very well as have the opportunity to repay debts above time. Federal legal guidelines avoid the Bureau of the Fiscal Support from commenting on an individual’s scenario.”