By Jack Douglas Jr. and Ginger Allen |CBS 11 I-Team|By Ginger Allen

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DENTON (CBS 11 NEWS) – The evening started out on a good note for Joel and Julie Lucky. They had a friend over at their home near Denton.

Then something happened.

“I said, ‘you know guys, I think I’m just having some of my anxiety symptoms,’” Joel Lucky told the I-Team.

But Julie Lucky wanted to make sure her husband was not suffering something more serious, like a stroke, so they drove to the nearest emergency room, at Denton Regional Medical Center.

“It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” she told the I-Team.

Her husband, a 49-year-old occupational therapist, was not particularly worried – he’d had panic attacks in the past.

“We were just going to go in there, check in with them in the emergency room, duck back out, and go to bed maybe an hour later than usual,” he said.

But, instead, Lucky was monitored in the emergency room for 14 hours, undergoing multiple tests, including an MRI and a CAT Scan, to rule out any possibility of something more serious than a panic attack.

Luck, for the time being, was on Lucky’s side… all of the tests came back normal, he said. “I came home, cleaned up a little bit, and went to work. I had a great day.”

His wife recalled, “I was happy with it. So we went on with things as usual.”

And then the E-R bill came – nearly $23,000, with the Luckys’ insurance only picking up $260 of it – followed by more anxiety for the Luckys.

“It just totally shut down my day,” Julie Lucky told the I-Team.

“We were in shock,” said her husband.

What’s worse – this could happen to any of us, a sickening medical bill.

“Obviously, this is an expensive lesson for this family,” said U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Denton, who spent 25 years as a North Texas doctor and now chairs a powerful congressional committee on health care.

“There needs to be a way for a patient to know coming in, ‘look, here is what we think is going on, here is what I recommend, here’s the cost of a CAT Scan or an MRI,” Burgess said.

He added that, with the advancement of medical care, and the rising costs associated with that care, the public needs to be more aware of just how well they are covered, in the event of an emergency.

“People need to be informed consumers …what is the insurance they’re buying …what does it cover…what is the cost of care that is delivered?” Burgess said.

The I-Team has learned that in the last year alone, nearly 2,700 complaints have been filed with the Texas Department of Insurance from people questioning why their insurance did not pay more of their medical bills.

The state sided with the policyholder in 430 of those cases, records show.

The Luckys’ insurance company, Assurant Health, declined to give the I-Team a comment on why it paid so little of Joel’s bill. Instead, it sent a statement that said the company offers “traditional major medical plans that provide comprehensive coverage at a higher cost,” as well as “limited benefit and fixed indemnity plans for a lower cost.”

Joel and Julie Lucky asked Denton Regional to forgive, or at least reduce, the E-R bill. The hospital replied in a letter, saying it “kindly rejected” their request.

Denton Regional declined repeated request by the I-Team for a comment.

The Luckys , who have filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance, say they don’t know where to turn next.

“We’ve put our life on hold,” Joel Lucky said.

Ironically, anxiety has gripped the family ever since he sought treatment for what turned out to be a panic attack.

“My boys love going on vacations with mom and daddy,” Joel Lucky told the I-Team, but “we had to tell them we have to put vacations on hold.”

If you’re not happy with a recent stay in a hospital, you can contact the Texas Department of State Health Services by clicking here.

If your concerns are with your insurance company, you can reach out to the Texas Department of Insurance by clicking here.

If you want to reach CBS 11′s Senior Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr., you may email him atjdouglas@cbs.com. If you want to reach CBS 11′s Senior Investigative reporter Ginger Allen, you can email her at gingera@ktvt.com.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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