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'Need three lives to pay': Indianapolis couple faces $2.9M hospital bill

Woman was burned in accidental propane gas explosion
Posted at 6:43 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 08:24:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Joel Rodriguez has not left his wife Gloria's side for months. He believes her survival is a miracle.

Joel and Gloria flew to Mexico after his mother died with COVID-19. While on the trip, an accidental propane gas explosion on Feb. 5 burned Gloria and her sister, who died Feb. 17. Medical care and prayers are what the Indianapolis couple credits for saving Gloria.

He paid about $30,000 to fly his wife to Indianapolis. She had burns to 70% of her body.

"I was very scared. The first week was very scared," Joel said. "I asked one of the doctors how do you see my wife. She said well, let's wait. It's survivable, but they were seeing her very sick."

Gloria and Joel Rodriguez are faced with a giant medical bill after Gloria suffered severe burns in February.

Gloria was treated at the burn center at Eskenazi Health from February-May.

"I'm really thankful for the hospital," Joel said. "They saved my wife's life. They took care of her the best way they can do it. It was the best."

His wife in Spanish also called it a milagro, a miracle, and expressed gratitude to the doctors and nurses at Eskenazi. She said the doctors did everything they could to heal her.

When the bill for the lifesaving care came, the couple was overwhelmed.

Initially $4.8 million, the hospital bill was reduced to $2.9 million. The hospital asked the couple to consider signing up for a payment plan of $81,000 a month. At the time of the explosion, they did not have health insurance. Now, they do.

The family said they are talking with Eskenazi about the $2.9 million bill and IU Health about a $160,000 bill.

WRTV sent an email asking Eskenazi Hospital to connect with the Rodriguez family about their bill. Due to federal privacy rules, the hospital cannot discuss their case.

"If I give them everything I have, I don't have close to that amount," Joel said. "I want to pay, but I don't know, I'm probably going to need three lives to pay. I worry because I want to pay for what they do for my wife, but I worry because I don't have the money."

You will often see Joel and his brother on the north side of Indianapolis where they co-own the popular La Piedad Mexican restaurant in Broad Ripple.

The family has been doing a lot of praying with many surgeries and therapies still ahead for Gloria. Beyond their faith, love is also alive in their home.

What to know

A couple things to keep in mind. Check your insurance coverage before any major medical procedure. If you are uninsured, talk to your provider about the medical treatment, the costs and payment plans. If you're a cash payer, there's an opportunity to negotiate pricing and payment.

People who are uninsured should also ask if there are any special funding programs to help with the bill.

Some people choose to file bankruptcy to get rid of medical debt, which is a last resort for many families. Around the country, it's estimated that a large percentage of bankruptcies are related to medical bills. You should talk to a lawyer who can guide you through this process.

Keep in mind that your credit will take a major hit. You're looking at 7-10 years depending on what type of bankruptcy you file.

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