After motorcycle wreck, SA man says BAMC bills topped $1.2 million

Second patient, husband of a BAMC employee, appealing amount owed after billing issues

SAN ANTONIO – Chris Dykman can recall many of the details of the motorcycle crash that nearly killed him more than two years ago.

Dykman was riding in full safety equipment, including a helmet, when he was broadsided by a full-size Chevrolet truck at Topperwein and Lookout Roads in April 2018.

The impact of the crash pinned him between the truck and his own motorcycle.

He was dragged and then tossed from the bike, with his momentum carrying him into a nearby field.

“Hit a curb, bounced off the curb and slid into a field. And actually it was a fence line that I crashed into,” said Dykman, who still has difficulty walking and has many visible injuries, including a disfigured left leg.

Dykman, who was critically injured, was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he would stay for nearly 70 days.

Chris Dykman shows his badly damaged left leg. (KSAT)

Much of his stay was in the hospital’s intensive care unit, as Dykman battled a long list of injuries that included an ankle that separated from the joint and severed an artery, compound fractures to his lower leg, damaged knee ligaments, a caved-in kneecap, close to 20 fractures in his left ribcage and a lacerated and collapsed lung.

Dykman, who credits BAMC medical staff with saving his life, also suffered multiple other lacerated organs, according to medical records viewed by the KSAT 12 Defenders.

Dykman said in order to save his badly damaged leg, doctors implanted a titanium rod along with bone fragments gathered prior to the surgery.

“I did not have any health insurance on me at that time,” said Dykman, who was released in late June 2018, but made four more trips to BAMC because of infection issues and to have hardware surgically implanted or removed.

Dykman’s medical bills are staggering.

He received three bills in the six-figures and a long list of five-figure bills, pushing the amount owed for his original hospital stay and follow up stays to over $1.2 million.

One of the six-figure bills received by Chris Dykman. (KSAT)

“That’s such an astronomical amount of money. I’ll probably never make it up in my lifetime,” said Dykman.

Since Dykman was treated at a military hospital and is not active duty military, a retiree or a covered family member, he is responsible for his full health care bill.

His bills were turned over to the United States Department of the Treasury and then transferred to a collection agency, according to records provided by Dykman.

“The letters keep pouring in. But I figure now that they know that is my phone number, it’s probably going to be a few more calls than it has been,” said Dykman, who briefly worked restocking liquor bottles but had to quit because of recurring problems with his injuries.

BAMC threatened to turn over car crash victim to Dept. of Treasury after sending her bill for $16K

“Unbelievably frustrating.”

Brenton Ferguson was admitted to BAMC’s burn unit in December 2018 after suffering second-degree burns to his hands and feet in a garage fire at his Stone Oak home.

“Ran, grabbed the hose, stretched it out as far as I could to full length, and it was about three feet short,” said Ferguson, describing why he ultimately decided to use his bare hands to toss burning items from the garage into his driveway despite being barefoot.

Brenton Ferguson was hospitalized in December 2018. (KSAT)

“I looked over and this whole hand was like blistered and peeling off. My other hand, the finger tips were blistered up and at that point I was like ‘oh my feet hurt,‘” said Ferguson, who managed to get his two young children out of the home as well.

Ferguson, the husband of a BAMC employee, said he received great medical care at the hospital but has had a number of issues with its billing department.

Brenton Ferguson was treated at BAMC in December 2018. (KSAT)

“Their confusion in their administration caused this issue,” said Ferguson.

In April, records show the government seized Ferguson and his wife’s tax return and applied it toward the approximately $5,200 owed to the treasury department, which took over the debt after Ferguson’s hospital bills were not paid.

A BAMC spokesman declined to make hospital officials available for an interview for this story, but did release the following statement regarding Ferguson’s billing dispute:

“Brooke Army Medical Center works closely with patients and families to ensure they have the information they need to navigate the billing process.After his treatment, BAMC billed Mr. Ferguson’s insurance carrier within filing deadlines for his total bill of $18,194.35. His insurance made a payment of $14,590.66, which was promptly posted to his account. Without apayment plan in place or payment in full for the remaining balance ($3,603.69), BAMC was obligated to transfer the debt to the U.S. Treasury (UST) in accordance with the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 andDefense Health Agency Uniform Business Office (UBO) policies/processes. As a military treatment facility, BAMC does not, per law, have the ability to compromise, waive, settle, negotiate, or suspend a debt. If a patient owes money for their healthcare, they will receive three notices by mail and have 120 days to pay their bill, to work with their insurance company to pay, or to set up a payment plan with the UBO. Once a valid debt has been transferred to the UST, BAMC may not interfere with collection actions. Patients (or family members as applicable) and their insurance carriers are encouraged to work directly with the UST.We understand the billing process can be a confusing and complicated process to navigate. BAMC works diligently to educate patients and family members prior to discharge to provide them with the necessary points of contact to aid in their navigation of this process. We encourage our patients and family members to call our Billing Office when they need clarification on a bill.To contact UBO, email or call 916-8563/5772. UBO can help validate bills and assist with insurance claims and payment plans. As always, BAMC is honored and proud to provide world-class healthcare to our community and our Nation.”

Ferguson, however, disputes this account and claims the hospital flat out forgot to charge his insurance for his overnight stay for several months.

Records provided by Ferguson show the bill for the overnight stay was sent in late May 2019, more than five months after he was released from the hospital.

He said a billing employee was unable to provide accurate information on how much he owed the hospital despite being called over and over again.

Phone records show the family calling BAMC’s billing department for months on end, sometimes several times a week.

Ferguson who has filed an appeal with the treasury department, called the experience “unbelievably frustrating.”

BAMC doctors saved their lives. Now BAMC bills threaten their livelihood.

He pointed out that he continued to receive bills from BAMC, stating he owed a certain amount even though his insurance carrier was providing records showing that the bills had already been paid.

“We never contested paying it. We just wanted to know what we owed,” said Ferguson.

After the Defenders requested an interview with hospital leadership earlier this month, a spokesman offered to make subject matter experts available to provide background information as long as cameras were not present.

The spokesman said a reporter from another San Antonio TV station took part in a similar visit earlier this year.

The Defenders ultimately declined the offer.

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy-nominated photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.