Free mammogram costs woman $300

Christian health sharing plan not accepted

When you hear something is free, you expect it to be free, not to cost you $200 or $300.

But that's what happened to one woman this month, when she went for a free mammogram, then learned that "free" can come with a catch, depending on what type of insurance you have.

Charlene Rack of Monfort Heights, Ohio, is a breast cancer survivor, who knows the importance of mammograms.

So she jumped at the chance for a free check up, in the UC Health mobile mammography van.

"A lot of times in October," she said, "because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you'll see those things around, free mammograms."

Not on traditional insurance
    
But Rack doesn't have traditional health insurance. Instead, she belongs to a Christian health share ministry, a fast growing, cheaper alternative to Obamacare.

Dozens have popped up in the past decade, and you will hear some advertised on radio. But these groups can have downsides, such as little coverage for checkups. They are not insurance.

"Instead of traditional insurance, preventative testing like this is not covered," Rack said.

The screening's website, however, said "free," and she told the check-in woman she was on a Christian sharing health plan.

"You know I figured we were ok, because of the advertising, of the word free and no strings attached,"  she said.

But two weeks later, Rack said, "I received a bill in the mail for almost $300."

Hospital confused at check-in

It turns out Christian health share programs are considered "self pay" to many hospitals, and free screenings may not be able to be properly coded.

That's why Rack got a bill for the full cost. 

"It was very frustrating obviously, when it was big non profit organization that is promoting free screenings with no fine print," she said. "I thought I was safe."

Good news: a few days after we got involved, UC Health told Rack it would drop the fee, and pick up the cost of what was advertised as a truly free screening. (UC Health could not talk to us, however, due to Federal HIPPA rules)

Christian health sharing ministries can save a family thousands of  dollars a year over traditional insurance.

But know the possible downsides before you sign up, so you don't waste your money.

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