Jeff Angileri
Dec 17, 2008, 10:15 PM

Medical bills can be overwhelming -- hundreds, even thousands of dollars. For most people, paying that off is difficult, if not impossible.

When Nancy Comstock of Whitewater was diagnosed with a tuberculosis-like disease, she and her husband Bob saw the medical bills pile up.

Emergency visits, the doctor followups, CAT scans, x-rays and so forth, she said.

It was a considerable amount, figuring the other expenses we'd already incurred, along with deductibles and co pays, and insurance premiums throughout the year, said Bob.

Retired, and living primarily off social security, they knew they couldn't afford the $3,700 hospital bill.

Knowing that our savings were being tapped into much more than we like, it was scary having all of these bills facing us, said Nancy.

So they called their hospital, worked with a patient advisor, and two months later, he told them the good news.

They had forgiven the entire bill, and what a fantastic load off our minds, said Bob.

Wisconsin hospitals budget millions of dollars every year for assistance. Last year alone, St. Mary's Hospital helped 3,200 people at a cost of $7 million.

Uninsured, under insured, people with insurance, anybody's able to apply for financial assistance, said Carl Dodd, Patient Account Advisor with St. Mary's Hospital.

Hospital staff say it's a small part of what the health care industry can do for a community.

It's very humbling to hear somebody thanking you and ending up crying because they're so elated they got rid of something they didn't know they were going to get rid of, Dodd said.

When he told us the good news I told him he was our angel, said Nancy.

Said Bob, To know that something like this exists in the Madison community is certainly a blessing.

Online: http://www.stmarysmadison.com/internet/home/stmarymadison.nsf/Documents/Financial%20Assistance%20(English)