Tamra Olsen-Ivie was a full-time nurse supporting two children when she suffered a debilitating brain injury after a mix-up in a prescription she filled at a Kmart pharmacy, according to her attorney.
Instead of the mild muscle relaxer she expected, she was handed a heavy-duty opioid that damaged her brain and left her incapacitated and unable to work.
Now, because of the way insurance works and through her own confusion, the 53-year-old single mother faces court action for unpaid medical bills owed to Intermountain Medical Center despite her attorneys’ pleas for patience until her anticipated settlement with Kmart is paid.
Because her insurer, Blue Shield of California, does not have a contract with IMC, it paid the medical claims directly to Olsen-Ivie, who didn’t understand those checks were supposed to go to the hospital. Her children cashed the checks to cover her living expenses since she no longer can work, leaving a debt of more than $50,000 to IMC with no means of paying it.
But one of her lawyers, Leonard McGee of Robert J. DeBry and Associates, says the hospital’s parent company, Intermountain Healthcare, will get its money if it puts a lien on the $3 million lawsuit she has filed against Kmart.
That case is scheduled for trial in October, but McGee expects a settlement, which will be more than what is needed to pay her medical bills plus interest.
“We’re not disputing that she owes the money,” McGee said. “But those checks were spent, and she has nothing.” He said the lawsuit filed by Intermountain is just piling up more debt for her when a simple lien would solve the problem.
Intermountain spokesman Daron Cowley said that each time Blue Shield sent a check to Olsen-Ivie, Intermountain received notice of the payment and reached out to the patient, letting her know she should send along the checks, but no checks were forwarded.
Cowley said that Olsen-Ivie received six checks totaling more than $37,000 over a year’s time and that Intermountain notified her that she should turn them over to the medical provider.
“We reached out multiple times to the patient and her attorney, notifying her she should turn those checks over, but she continued cashing the checks,” Cowley said. “We have received no information on how the money was spent. They have not been responsive.”
McGee produced several emails between his firm and Strong & Hanni, the law firm representing Intermountain, in which he explained the money was spent due to Olsen-Ivie’s medical condition and her children’s confusion.
“The case [against Kmart] is a good case,” McGee said. “There will be a settlement. Just put a lien on it, and you will be paid.”
Intermountain continues to pursue Olsen-Ivie in 3rd District Court, however, and that persistence has prompted her lawyers to seek a judgment dismissing her debt altogether.
Intermountain first filed a small claims suit in Sandy Justice Court and received a $6,000 judgment. It since has filed in 3rd District Court for the rest of the outstanding debt, but her attorneys say Intermountain had its bite at the apple and won a claim. Now that case is settled, it can’t file for more.
The offer of the lien is still on the table, however, an offer McGee says would result in a good outcome for everybody.
The irony, he says, is that even if Intermountain won a higher judgment, his client has no ability to pay it. So rather then getting its money eventually from the expected Kmart settlement, it will get nothing.