An Army Couple Had Their Daughter at a Military Hospital. Then the Collections Calls Started for $600,000
2023/08/13

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Army Spc. Daysha Cartagena and her husband, Staff Sgt. Isaiah Cortez, experienced a challenging pregnancy with their daughter in 2021. After multiple visits to Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, Cartagena was eventually admitted for an emergency Cesarean section. However, by that time, complications had arisen, and their daughter, Mya, faced serious health issues.

Mya had inhaled meconium during labor, which led to respiratory distress, brain damage, and other potential complications. Following her birth, she required extensive medical care and was placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

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The couple's joy at their daughter's birth was overshadowed by mounting medical bills amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Seeking assistance, Cortez turned to social media, where he received a response from Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston's public affairs team. The issue caught the attention of Army leadership due to the significant amount owed and the family's struggles with Tricare and Womack Army Medical Center. As a result, efforts were made to resolve the billing issues and clear the couple's credit reports.

The case revealed the potential risk of military families facing substantial medical debt despite having access to military healthcare.

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It also shed light on staffing shortages and challenges in military medical facilities, which can result in delayed appointments, inadequate care, and patients being referred to civilian facilities. In this instance, Cartagena believes the delays in her delivery were linked to staffing shortages at Womack's labor and delivery department.

Efforts are now underway to rectify the billing concerns and improve support for military families navigating complex medical billing processes. The family is considering filing a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act for alleged malpractice during Cartagena's delivery.

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Despite the challenges they faced, the family expresses gratitude for the support they received from their Army units and the intervention of the Sergeant Major of the Army's office.

Mya, now nearly 2 years old, continues to face some health issues but is otherwise developing well. The incident highlights the need for improved coordination, communication, and support within military healthcare systems to ensure that families receive the care they need without facing overwhelming medical debt.

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