Health literacy need to navigate through complex healthcare system

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) —  Navigating through a stack of unexpected medical bills can be awfully tough in the complex healthcare system. Critics say that not enough has been done to educate the public on simple terminology like deductibles, or how to choose a doctor.

Even those experienced with health insurance are having a tough time muddling through.

When wife Caroline died in a car accident on Route 8 this year, Stu Walls barely had time to grieve. The medical bills started to stack up quickly.

“I just got to the point where I couldn’t navigate this,” said Walls.

Despite having health insurance, the professional photographer was faced with more than $150,000 in medical expenses.

“In four months I had people coming at me from agencies, collection agencies,” said Walls. He wrote them all letters, “And I said it doesn’t do you any good or me any good by going to a collection agency. You’re going to lose money and I’m going to lose credit.”

At issue, doctors caring for his wife, who were not on the approved list of doctors issued by his insurance company. Doctors, out of network, billing out thousands of dollars.

Steve Glick, with the Chamber Insurance Trust, stepped in to help.

“The biggest issue today for many people is what’s having a narrow network of doctors- their physicians. And what happens is someone plans a surgery and 48 hours before the surgery they find out the doctor is not in the network and winding up with a $22,000 bill if they continue,” said Glick.

Through local area Chambers of Commerce, he helps to navigate frustrated small business owners like Walls in and out of the recently overhauled healthcare system.

“Most people do not know the difference between deductibles co-insurance. Less than 14 percent of the public understand the language of healthcare,” said Walls.

After getting the expert advice, Walls is now down to owing 15,000 which his insurance company did not cover. And now has more time to heal his broken heart.

“You just have one day at a time, that’s all you can do is one thing at a time,” said Walls.

There’s a free workshop to educate businesses help employees to understand their healthcare options. It’s at Gateway Community College in New Haven, 20 Church Street. Medical professionals, Consumer Reports, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo among those taking part.

It’s from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Get there early for security reasons.

Call 1-800-953-4467 or e-mail Wanda Picagli at

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