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Originally published July 27 2011

Hospital files $9.2 million claim against estate of patient who died after five-year stay

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) In what is perhaps the largest hospital bill case in history, Tampa General Hospital in Florida has reportedly filed a $9.2 million claim against the estate of Tameka Jaqway, a former inpatient at the hospital who spent five years there before eventually dying. Apparently the hospital never billed Tameka or her mother Holly Bennett for any portion of the girl's stay until after she died, when it proceeded to file a massive claim against her estate.

"That would have to be the biggest bill I've heard of," said Alan Levine, a division president from the Naples, Fla.-based hospital chain Health Management Associates, to WTSP 10 News in Tampa, concerning the $9.2 million tab. "I've seen more than $1 million, but not nine million."

Tameka had suffered from progressive demyelinating neuropathy, an immune disorder marked by the body's immune cells turning on itself, and attacking healthy nerves. There is no explanation as to why Tameka spent so many years in the hospital rather than being sent to an alternate care facility, but pictures and video indicate that she spent most of those years in a hospital bed connected to feeding tubes and other life support equipment.

"If they think they're getting money from me they're crazy," said Bennett to WTSP concerning the hospital's claim against her daughter. "Who's ever even heard of a bill that high?"

Records reportedly obtained from the Hillsborough County Courthouse reveal that Bennett had actually been removed from legal guardianship of her daughter at some point, and replaced by a professional guardian. Regardless, Bennett claims that the hospital did not properly feed or care for her daughter, and that she had dropped to a disturbingly-low 37 pounds prior to dying.

The WTSP piece suggests that perhaps Tampa General knew that Bennett might try to sue the hospital for neglect, and instead filed its lawsuit punitively in order to shield itself from what some might consider a financial ransacking. Either way, $9.2 million is a lot of money to charge for patient care, and a bill for such an amount deserves further scrutiny regardless of whether or not Tampa General actually ends up receiving it in the end.

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