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'One red cent' gives Fargo company unwanted publicity -- Discovery Benefits of Fargo is getting its 15 minutes of fame on the Internet

Discovery Benefits of Fargo is getting its 15 minutes of fame on the Internet.

And it isn't pretty.

It involves a story about a single mother in Colorado Springs, Colo., who lost her job and is battling leukemia and was in jeopardy of losing her health insurance.

The reason? A check she sent to continue health coverage through her former employer was short.

By one penny.

The discrepancy resulted when La Rosa Carrington had to estimate her premium because a stimulus program paid part of the tab.

Carrington's estimate of her monthly premium was $165.15, but the amount due was $165.16. A form letter generated by computer software informed the woman that her coverage was not "reinstated" due to insufficient payment.

The story about Carrington's turmoil appeared Tuesday in the Colorado Springs Gazette under the headline "A penny for this thought: Outrage."

By Wednesday afternoon, the story went viral after it was picked up by the Drudge Report, the Internet tabloid.

"My medical bills are coming in like locusts, and you're holding up my benefits because of one red cent?" Carrington told a reporter from her hospital bed last week.

Carrington, 52, was able to get the matter straightened out in three hours "on a day when she wasn't feeling good, and upset her so much that she got a headache and had trouble sleeping," the Gazette reported.

Now Discovery Benefits is eager to get out its version of the story - sending a statement to news organizations, and talking to reporters.

"She was never in jeopardy of losing coverage over this," said John Biwer, president of Discovery Benefits, which acts as a "middle man" between the insurance company, employer, health providers and individuals receiving coverage through their former employer.

During Carrington's three hours of angst, Discovery Benefits was on the phone with the insurance company and hospital to resolve the problem, Biwer said.

The miscommunication that caused Carrington's anxiety and frustration was blown out of proportion in news coverage, he said.

"The story is somebody was wronged," Biwer added. "At the end of the day, she was never in jeopardy of losing her coverage."

Barbara Cotter, the Gazette reporter who wrote the story, disagrees that her reporting was inaccurate.

"I stand by my story," she said, and she sent The Forum a copy of the letter Carrington received from Discovery Benefits. "The point is this woman had to go through this song and dance for a penny."

The last words of the statement issued by Discovery Benefits:

"Discovery Benefits sympathizes with anyone who may be coping with health issues as well as the complexity of COBRA" - the program that allows people to continue their employer health coverage - "and insurance benefits. It's our job to help walk our clients through these issues, and we have a 24-year record of excellent service to them."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522