Advocates help to lower hospital bills

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Tiffany LeFlouria is 36 years old and amazed that she just gave birth to her first child -- a beautiful baby girl named Ava Simone.

"Doctors told me I would never be able to have children," LeFlouria said.

And yet it happened. On Mother's Day this year tiny Ava was born, weighing just over 5 pounds.

"It was amazing to find out one, that I'm pregnant with her, and two, to have her born on Mother's Day was the best gift ever," LeFlouria said.

But the birth of Ava was not without problems. She was born six weeks premature and had to spend 19 days in the Intensive Care Unit for babies.

At the same time, LeFlouria was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart defect and spent more than two weeks in the hospital.

When it was all over, even with LeFlouria's health insurance, the hospital bill came to $64,118.00.LeFlouria said she was stunned by the amount and is unable to pay it.

"It's overwhelming, completely overwhelming. Compared to my salary, this bill is about three and a half times more than what I make annually," LeFlouria said.

Millions of Americans find themselves in the very same spot every year in this country. In fact, according to one study, Americans spend more than $140 billion a year in out-of-pocket expenses for hospital bills, medical fees and drug costs.

So what is a single mom, working as a waitress full-time, who knows nothing about medical billing, supposed to do about a hospital bill like the one she's incurred? The answer maybe hiring a medical billing advocate.

Medical billing advocates are medical billing experts you hire and pay to find mistakes on your medical or hospital bills. They then work with doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to lower your final bill.

Many times they will charge you nothing up front, but will take a percentage of what they are able to save you as payment.

"No, you don't have to pay these unbelievable fees," said Christina LaMontagne, with

Nerd Wallet is a company you can contact online that will answer your questions and concerns about high medical bills for free. Then, if you like, Nerd Wallet will put you in contact with a medical billing advocate in your area to help you lower your bill.

In the case involving LeFlouria and her daughter, Nerd Wallet's Christina LaMontagne has agreed to work with Tiffany's bill and lower it for free.

"The ultimate goal is to reduce Tiffany's bill by tens of thousands of dollars," LaMontagne said.

That process of working to lower LeFlouria's bill could take weeks to complete, but when it's over, Local 2 Investigates will bring you that story.

Click here to get in touch with Medical Billing Advocates of America, or click here to connect to

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