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Bill Of The Month Update On Story Involving Kidney Dialysis

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

All right. We told you one week ago about a Montana man, Sov Valentine, who received a bill of more than half a million dollars for 14 weeks of kidney dialysis. His bill was reduced by half by the time of our broadcast. Now he's received even more good news. Kevin Trevellyan of Montana Public Radio has the story.

KEVIN TREVELLYAN, BYLINE: Late last week, after reports on NPR and CBS, Fresenius, the dialysis company that sent Sov Valentine the bill, said they would waive it. He owes nothing. Valentine is a 50-year-old personal trainer who suddenly developed kidney failure in January. He said he felt relief at the news.

SOV VALENTINE: It felt like a victory. You know? It felt righteous.

TREVELLYAN: But there was also frustration that he had to face potential bankruptcy while fighting a life-threatening disease.

VALENTINE: So it just felt really wrong from the very beginning. You know, like, when people - when there's a hurricane, and they try to sell water for $10 a gallon and this kind of stuff?

TREVELLYAN: The huge bill stemmed from treatment Valentine got at an out-of-network Fresenius clinic in Missoula, 70 miles from his home in rural Montana. He and his wife, Jessica, who is a doctor, said they had been told by their insurer that there were no in-network clinics in the entire state. The insurer now says that was a misunderstanding. The Valentines were bracing for a bill, but no one could tell them how much it would cost. Then the bills came.

VALENTINE: It was just boom - $140,000, $145,000. And then a month and a half or so later, boom - $540,000. And they wanted it in 10 days and had already started sending us collection notices.

TREVELLYAN: A Fresenius spokesman said the company waved Valentine's bill because he should have been treated as in-network from the beginning, and it is negotiating with Valentine's insurance company now. But Valentine says that's backpedaling.

VALENTINE: You know, it's a slap in the face 'cause we were doing research and talking with them, and Jessica would be on the phone for four hours at a time on her days off.

TREVELLYAN: Now Valentine is preparing for a kidney transplant. There's not much he would do differently following his billing ordeal. He felt he dotted all his i's and crossed all his t's from the beginning. For NPR News, I'm Kevin Trevellyan in Missoula, Mont.

INSKEEP: Our Bill of the Month segment is produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.