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Woman who took advantage of ‘free’ mammogram ‘received a bill in the mail for almost $300’

MONFORT HEIGHTS, Ohio — When you hear the word ‘free,’ you expect something to be free. You don’t expect it’ll cost you $200 or $300, but that’s what happened to Charlene Rack when she went for a free mammogram. She soon learned “free” can come with a catch, depending on what type of insurance you have.

Charlene Rack of Monfort Heights, Ohio, is a breast cancer survivor, who knows the importance of mammograms. She jumped at the chance for a free checkup in the UC Health mobile mammography van.

“A lot of times in October, because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you’ll see those things around — free mammograms,” said Rack.

Rack doesn’t have traditional health insurance. Instead, she belongs to a Christian health share ministry, a fast growing, cheaper alternative to the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. Dozens have popped up in the past decade, but these groups can have downsides, such as little coverage for checkups.

“Instead of traditional insurance, preventative testing like this is not covered,” said Rack.

The screening’s website said “free,” and she told the check-in woman she was on a Christian sharing health plan.

“You know, I figured we were OK because of the advertising, of the word ‘free’ and no strings attached,” she said.

Two weeks later, Rack said, “I received a bill in the mail for almost $300.”

As it turned out, Christian health share programs are considered “self pay” at many hospitals, and free screenings may not be able to be properly coded. That’s why Rack got a bill for the full cost.

“It was very frustrating, obviously, when it was big nonprofit organization that is promoting free screenings with no fine print. I thought I was safe,” said Rack.

A few days after WCPO got involved, UC Health officials told Rack they would drop the fee and pick up the cost of what was advertised as a truly free screening. Christian health sharing ministries can save a family thousands of dollars a year over traditional insurance, but you should make sure you’re aware of the possible downsides before you sign up, so you don’t waste your money.