Former Green Beret, now a disabled vet burdened with unexpected medical bill

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A man who served in the US Army Special Forces or Green Berets is facing hospice care and doesn’t want to leave his family with the burden of unexpected medical bills due to his disability and full-time care.

The veteran says he’s been hit with a medical bill he shouldn’t have to be paying.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare looked into his situation to see how the burden can be lifted from the family whose hero has hit a roadblock in trying to have the bill deferred.

Karen St. Marie carefully lays her husband down. Matt St. Marie is ill suffering from a neurological disorder called Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, or CIDP. The retired Green Beret US Army Special Forces Master Sergeant served in the first Gulf War. He was once active and strong. He is now 100% disabled from his service-connected disability of CIDP.

“It’s extremely painful. I’m in hospice now. The outlook is not good. I’m starting to go downhill pretty fast,” Matt St. Marie said.

Beginning four years ago, he received intravenous immunoglobulin infusions from Diplomat Speciality Infusion Group. He says the IVIG gave him antibodies to fight infections.

“It was very expensive. I didn’t pay anything for it because Medicare covered it. And, Tricare for Life paid, I thought, the rest. And then I got a bill,” Matt St. Marie said.

So, several years ago, he started making payment arrangements of $25 a month with Diplomat. Then in January of this year, he began Hospice care. That’s when the infusions ended, but the bills didn’t.

“Recently we just got another bill,” Matt St. Marie said. “It is two thousand, two-hundred seventy dollars and two cents. For me to get a bill, I was completely blown away. I was already making payments for 25 dollars a month on it… I should be paying nothing. For example, anytime I go into the hospital, I’ve had several hospitalizations I don’t pay a dime. I’m the only one with an income. My wife retired from her job at the airbase. She’s taking care of me right now. I contacted Diplomat they said that’s how much I owe. They said Medicare has paid everything they’re supposed to and Tricare has paid everything they’re supposed to and I owe them that much money. I don’t want to leave this behind for my family.”

“Suddenly out of the blue they want this money upfront. Saying ‘here, you owe us this money,'” Karen St. Marie, Matt’s wife, said.

Mrs. St. Marie says the extra financial burden has added stress to her husband’s already fragile condition. She contacted the infusion company, Diplomat.

“…But they say, ‘you need to pay this now,'” she said.

More than two months ago, WATE 6 On Your Side wrote to Diplomat Infusion Group and to Tricare. 

Diplomat Pharmacy said, “We understand this is a heartbreaking situation … but what we see is a co-pay deductible that had not been met … the bill is based on what we received from Mr. St. Marie’s Medicare and Tricare for Life benefits. However, there is a waiver program and we would be happy to work with Mr. St.Marie and his family.”

The Military Health System tells 6 On Your Side that Tricare’s health plan providers are reviewing Master Sergeant St. Marie’s situation.

It was about a week ago, that Karen and Matt said they received the waiver application from Diplomat, filled it out and sent it off  They’re holding out hope that it is approved.

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