Jefferson County woman with $500K in medical bills left waiting as benefits hearing delayed

Investigations

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — A Jefferson County woman who has been fighting her former employer for benefits will have to wait another six weeks before appearing before the Workers’ Compensation Board. Her medical bills are near $500,000.

Originally, a hearing was scheduled for August 5, to take up Keniethea Tadlock’s case, but it’s been delayed. Just when she believed the end might be near, Tadlock’s workers’ comp hearing has been stalled.

She came down with COVID-19 in September of 2020, and she’s still sick, and her medical bills continue to mount. Her former employer provided insurance and sick leave compensation, but that ended in March. Since then, she’s been looking forward to a hearing before the state.

Keniethea Tadlock has been confined to her bed since mid-July. It was 10 months ago when she was first admitted to Jefferson Memorial Hospital diagnosed with COVID-19. She was in critical care for three weeks and struggled to survive. She’s never fully recovered.

She said, “This is horrible. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. You have your good days and then, I’ve been down for two weeks now.”

Tadlock worked at an office in Halls for a regional propane gas supply company, Blossman Gas. She filed a claim with the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation against her former employer alleging she got the virus at work.

Her husband, Steve Blankenship says, “The burden is going to be on us to prove anything about it, that it was caused at work. All that is going to be on us.”

Keniethea and Steve Blankenship were married before the pandemic. At 45, she had always been healthy. Since September, Keneithea’s accumulated over a thousand pages in medical bills. “I owe the hospital $437,000 and some odd change now. That’s just the hospital.”

Her condition is what the American Medical Association calls a COVID long-hauler. She’s been diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome and suffers from chronic pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

The Workers’ Comp virtual hearing originally set before the board on August 5 has now been moved to mid-September at the request of the Board and Blossman Gas.

She says, “My understanding is we are going to see if we can come to a settlement, a payment settlement. If we don’t come to a settlement, then we are going to put it in the court’s hands and go to court with it.”

She adds that she’s been told that negotiations are underway to possibly compensate her and pay off her bills. “Well, I just want the medical care side of it taken care of.”

The insurance company that represents Tadlock’s former employer says it does not publicly comment on matters under litigation. While nothing has been put in writing yet, she says she is more hopeful now, than she was in May.

However, for the second time since last spring, she said she’s been asked to provide documentation from her doctor that she is still sick. That, she said, in her present condition will not be a problem.

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