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$2 Mistake Could Cost North Texas Family Thousands In Medical Bills

CARROLLTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - A Carrollton family says a $2 mistake could end up costing them thousands of dollars in medical bills.

The issue unfolded in March 2018, when Isaac Chukkala became ill days before his first birthday.

"We just thought it was congestion at first," said his mother, Paulette Chukkula.

When Isaac developed breathing problems, his parents took him to the hospital, where he underwent two days of treatment for bronchiolitis.

The hospital stay occurred more than a year ago. The ordeal seemed like a distant memory to his parents until they recently received a bill from the emergency room doctor.

"Initially I didn't want to believe it... I thought it was a scam," said Kishore Chukkula, Issac's father.

Paulette and Kishore Chukkala
Paulette and Kishore Chukkala (CBS 11)

The family was insured through WageWorks at the time. The Chukkulas were paying more than $2,000 per month for COBRA coverage while Kishore was between jobs. So Kishore called the Irving-based company for answers.

"That's when they told me I didn't have coverage for the month of March," he said. "They said, 'your premium was short by $1.96.'"

When their WageWorks coverage began in December 2017, the Chukkalas' monthly premium was $2,305.44. After the first month, that price went up slightly, but the family never changed their payments. That left $1.96 owed when the family cancelled their coverage at the end of March 2018.

"I didn't actually know what to say when they told me that. I was like, 'Are you serious?'" said Kishore. "It's not even the cost of a Starbucks drink. I'm paying over $2,000 per month. Why would I hold $1.96? It doesn't even make sense."

Kishore said his appeal to WageWorks was automatically denied because he didn't file the paperwork within six months of his coverage ending.

In a statement to The Ones For Justice, WageWorks called the balance "less than significant," but stated the company has "complete authority" to cancel coverage if not paid in full.

Read CBS 11's questions and answers with WageWorks here:

A spokesperson said the Chukkalas were sent three letters about the shortfall.

"We went back through all of our mail and our files," said Paulette. "I never saw a notice, he never saw a notice."

WageWorks also pointed to the refund check it sent the Chukkalas in August 2018. Kishore said when he called to ask why he had received the check six months after their coverage ended, he was told it was an "overpayment."

Kishore said he had no idea it was due to a shortage on his behalf.

Now the family is on the hook for the $1,300 doctor bill. Paulette and Kishore said they've been told the hospital could charge them up to $13,000.

"It's frustrating when you're trying to do everything right," said Paulette. "We budgeted and prepared and then we get this shocker."

This week Baylor Scott and White issued a statement via email.

"Thank you very much for bringing this to our attention," wrote spokesperson Julie Smith. "We are investigating and will work directly with WageWorks, the individual and other appropriate parties on the matter."

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