CHESTER, Va. -- Chronic pancreatitis and debilitating stomach ulcers make it difficult for Karen Butler, 67, to maintain body weight.
“Sometimes the pain, the way that it made me feel was like if I had been put in a microwave oven and was being cooked from the inside out,” Butler told the CBS 6 Problem Solvers.
Butler says 18 abdominal surgeries have reduced her stomach to about the size of a golf ball since an ulcer first ruptured in 1996. In 2020, her doctors decided it was time to operate again but first, they wanted to get Butler to a healthier weight. To that end, her medical team ordered Butler to receive nutritional IVs, known as TPN, at home for several months prior to surgery last April.
“They had me on it for three months and I gained up to 154 pounds before I went in for surgery,” said Butler.
The TPN, supplied by a home infusion company KabaFusion, did its job and the surgery was a success.
As Butler recovered, her husband of 23 years, David, dealt with the numerous medical bills arriving.
“I just paid one company off. I probably still have about $2,000 or $3,000 to pay with VCU,” David told the Problem Solvers. He arranged payment plans with many of the medical providers, as the couple lives on Social Security income and cannot afford a supplemental health insurance policy to offset expenses not covered by Medicare.
David thought he had the bills more or less under control until a full year later when they received a manila envelope full of bills from KabaFusion requesting $6,003.49 in payment.
“I was confused. I thought the bill was paid according to what the hospital was telling me and not receiving a bill for over a year,” said David Butler of the invoices that arrived in April 2021. “I assumed the bill was taken care of and to find out a year later that you’ve got a $6,000 bill you have to pay out of pocket… It's just too much for somebody on Medicare. There's only so much money in the coffers every month.”
The Problem Solvers reviewed the Butlers’ invoices, as well as extensive notes David kept of his phone calls to KabaFusion between April and September of this year. He says his messages have been passed from a KabaFusion office in Virginia to Arkansas and ultimately California. Having spoken with a half dozen company representatives, the Butlers say they submitted paperwork requesting financial assistance but have not heard back about the determination.
“I just hit a brick wall or I get an answering machine and that's as far as it goes,” said David Butler. “I rarely get a human being to call me back. It's just frustrating and it makes you mad but I don’t want to end up in collections.”
Executives at KabaFusion’s headquarters in Massachusetts declined to provide a written statement for this story. A company representative tells the Problem Solvers that the Butlers’ balance is what’s due after Medicare covered 80 percent of the charges, a standard split for Medicare recipients.
The spokesperson did say KabaFusion is still working to help the Butlers but that the process takes time. How much more time, the representative could not say. The company offered no explanation for the year long delay between services and sending the Butlers a bill.
“I’m getting the run around it seems,” says David Butler. “Nobody wants to deal with it.”
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