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Cancer patient tells court medical expenses left her devastated [Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.]

By Lori Fowler, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 18--RANCHO CUCAMONGA -- With tears in her eyes, Kathleen Carter told a jury on Monday what it felt like to receive an unexpected hospital bill for more than $100,000 following her cancer treatment.

She also talked about how she had to deal with the creditors who called her home looking for payment.

"The notices were very rude, abrasive, nasty," she said on the witness stand in West Valley Superior Court. "I didn't want to answer the phone ever after that."

She broke down, she said. She was angry, upset and devastated. She couldn't understand why this was happening -- her husband, Norman Carter, had bought health insurance in 2004 that they thought covered catastrophic circumstances like Kathleen's form of abdominal cancer and all the hospital services that went with it.

The balance, after hospital discounts for the insurance company, totaled $174,000. In processing the claims, the company decided that $134,000 was identified as miscellaneous. They denied the remaining costs, leaving the Carters to pay for 77 percent of the bill.

The Carters, who live in Yucaipa, couldn't afford that. In 2011, they filed a lawsuit against with Mid-West National Life Insurance Company of Tennessee, a subsidiary of HealthMarkets.

The combined stress of dealing with cancer, the insurance company, creditors, and the current lawsuit has taken its toll on Kathleen Carter, who is still being treated for cancer nearly two years after she was diagnosed.

"You can't fight cancer without hope and all my hope has been dashed," Carter testified on Monday.

Defense attorneys with Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton chose not to question her.

Mid-West denies any wrongdoing and claims the Carters received the coverage to which they were entitled.

The defense has also said the Carters bought the least-expensive option available within the least-expensive plan.

Their witness on Monday testified that if the Carters had bought a different policy, the amount they would have been responsible for could have been as little as $12,500.

The trial started Dec. 5.

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Lawyers with Shernoff Bidart Echeverria and Bentley, the Claremont law firm representing the family, rested its case on Monday.

Defense lawyers have a few more witnesses left to call but both sides are hoping to wrap up the trial this week.

Reach Lori via email, call her at 909-483-9378, or find her on Twitter at @IEcourtsNow.

___

(c)2012 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)

Visit the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.) at www.dailybulletin.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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