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Family says insurance plan cost more than their mortgage

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KIRKLIN, Ind. -- A central Indiana family say no one could help them cancel a $700 per month insurance plan, and it nearly bankrupted them.

Pashen Byers said she and her husband signed up for health insurance through his employer's open enrollment period at the end of 2016, but it took until April 2017 to actually start their coverage because of a back-and-forth with the insurance company.

When the plan finally started, Byers said they were immediately hit with sticker shock.

"It was $740 a month," Byers said. "That was actually more than our mortgage."

Byers told FOX59 that a customer service representative told her they had 60 days to cancel, so they started the process, but hit road blocks.

By August, the company had denied their appeal and said, "this decision is final."

Ultimately, the only reason they were able to end their plan was because Byers' husband changed from part-time to full-time, which qualified as a life event and allowed for a change to benefits.

"For the first time ever in our lives, we had to go to food pantries because that was the only help that we could get," Byers said.

Byers read from a letter her husband sent to his insurance company multiple times, saying "I just want this problem resolved so I don't continue to risk losing my home, my vehicles, my credit, and my family. Please cancel my plan."

Despite that letter, Byers' employer told FOX59 in a statement Friday that it believed it had followed proper policy and IRS regulations.

FOX59 spoke to Nicole Kowalski, the health access manager for St. Vincent's Rural and Urban Access to Health program. Kowalski said with health insurance, you often become locked into a plan once you choose it.

"A lot of times you’re stuck in it until the next open enrollment period if you don’t have any kind of changes," Kowalski said.

Kowalski and Byers both said they think people should do their research first, and know what they're getting before signing up.

"There’s so many different things that can be confusing if people don’t know what would be best for them, so they can go on (health care) websites to ... check it out," Kowalski said.

Byers said that after her family was able to cancel the plan in October, they signed up for a plan through a union which cost half as much. She hoped to recoup their money, which totaled more than $5,000, but wasn't sure that would happen.

"It is a last ditch effort because that would make a significant impact on our family to get that money back," Byers said. "I don’t know how people would be able to afford that."

You can find help with health insurance options through the state, at the link here.