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Large ER bills after teens' attempted suicide deemed not an emergency

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If your child tried to take his or her life, you would consider that an emergency. But a Riverton family has been slapped with massive medical bills after a recent ER trip was deemed not-emergent. Rebecca Johnson says two of her daughters attempted to take their own lives. (Photo: KUTV)

If your child tried to take his or her life, you would consider that an emergency. But a Riverton family has been slapped with massive medical bills after a recent emergency room (ER) trip was deemed not-emergent.

Rebecca Johnson says two of her daughters attempted to take their own lives.

"One had cuts on her wrist and the other one took a handful of pills," she said. "My daughter came up and said, ‘I just took a handful of pills because I don't want to live anymore,’ and to me that's an emergency."

Rebecca rushed her daughters to the closest emergency room at Riverton Hospital--which is not in her insurance network. Both girls are on the mend but now, months later, Rebecca got shocking news. She said:

"The insurance company and the hospital deemed it not a life threatening emergency."

Deemed not an emergency, Rebecca is left owing $5,436.26 after insurance.

In a letter, the hospital blames her insurance company, Cigna, writing "they can choose" how much to pay and that "Cigna denied a significant portion of the claim."

Get Gephardt reached out to Cigna on Rebecca's behalf, not through customer service but through the corporate public relations department.

In a statement, a spokesperson told 2News Cigna should have paid more. “We regret that this time, we did not get it right," the statement reads.

Cigna blamed a "processing error" and adjusted the claim to cover the full amount billed, leaving Rebecca only to pay her deductible and co-insurance.

Rebecca says she is relieved, for now, but worries about the next time there's a medical emergency--wondering will the hospital or insurance company agree?

"It scares us to take them anywhere," she said.

According to federal law, in medical emergencies all hospitals are in network. But here in Utah, when an insurance company doesn't pay what the hospital charges, the balance of the bill is often sent on to the patient.

Neither the hospital nor the insurance company answered why the suicide attempts were deemed non-emergent.

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