There is her son Joseph as a toddler who smiles and is dressed in a romper suit. His bright blue eyes match the blue background. He was her first-born, a gift that came to life at the age of 17.
Not far away is the document from a middle school, where it is recommended to be suspended during the last weeks of school after being caught with marijuana. He was 13 years old.
It was the beginning of a lifelong battle with drug abuse that his mother desperately wanted him to break. For the next 16 years, Alba said, her son spent dozens of nights in prisons, went through nearly 20 wards at the detox clinic and spent two terms in prison.
Alba withdraws a bank receipt for a deposit made by her son at the end of August 201
She shakes her head.
Blue Carolina and Blue Shield from North Carolina had sent their son a check for $ 33,399.76. It was scheduled for emergency care after he had broken the fight in a bar seven months earlier.
The check, which included $ 2,405.28 in interest, was more than it had done in a year.
"Dirty money" mother says.
Over the next four days, her son made three cash withdrawals totaling $ 13,000. Alba has the receipts.
On September 2, 2017, the day after his last retreat, Joseph Hockett II was found dead.
Alba says that her son used the money to get the biggest thrill of his life. Housekeepers found him in room 135 at Extended Stay, Wilmington.
A bottle of whiskey and a bundled dollar bill with white powder were found in the room, according to the autopsy report. Cause of death: cocaine and heroin toxicity.
"A Cloud of Sorrow"
Another woman told CNN that a family member received a $ 240,000 check after an operation outside the network. The practice has forced some providers to sue patients to reclaim the money.
Critics say it's a tactic that insurers use to force providers to join their networks and accept lower payments – one that puts patients into combat by sending money directly to them.
The insurance industry says policy is properly designed to protect patients from surprise bills and exorbitant costs of doctors and hospitals outside the network.
For Alba, history crystallized the questions she had after overdosing her son.
Her grief: She had helped him to take out insurance to avoid the tax penalty originally imposed by the Affordable Care Act.
"I did not know that insurance would be part of his death," she says.
Alba Your son was the last one to receive so much money. Her son's life was important, and she is determined to change the powers that need to know that something needs to change.
"I've been in a cloud of grief for a year and a half," she says. "I'm mad at Blue Cross Blue Shield for giving him money that's not from him … [and] It killed him."
At the time, Alba had no idea about the Blue Cross check. Only after the police had turned over their belongings and gone through them did they assemble the money trail.
Among the articles she said, she found next to the receipts for the $ 33,000 check and cash withdrawals for $ 7,000, $ 3,000 and $ 3,000:
• A PDF file on his computer includes a check voucher of $ 6,096.14 from Blue Cross in April 2017.
• A check for $ 14,104 from Blue Cross in June 2017.
for about three dozen medical services in 2017.
"They sent the checks directly to him and did not pay the hospitals," says his mother "which is absolutely absurd for me, and it's careless and it's just ridiculous."
Even after his death, the money continued. Nearly a year later, in June 2018, Blue Cross sent a check for $ 2,496.95.
All in all, Alba says, she knows she has received at least $ 56,096.85 in checks from Blue Cross.
North Carolina Insurance Commissioner: This is "a real problem"
Alba says Blue Cross knew her son had an addiction problem when the money was sent to him. The June 2017 check for $ 14,104 came shortly after Hockett left the rehab after a relapse. Alba also has forms to explain the benefits, showing that Blue Cross covered at least one of Hockett's visits during his last months in rehab.
Sending tens of thousands of dollars to a person with a dependency, she says, is like "dangling a piece of meat in front of a lion and telling him not to eat it."
"Why would you give one? Person with mental health problems and addiction problems you ask." It is carefree. It is morally wrong. It is terrible. I do not know any other way to express it. "
North Carolina Blue Cross and Blue Shield refused to answer questions about Hockett and the insurer also refused to discuss why he sent big checks to someone with addiction problems, whether checks have been sent to other people who struggle with drug addiction or whether someone else has been overdosed after receiving such amounts and has died.
"We can not comment on the specifics of a case under data protection laws This is a tragedy, and our condolences to the family, "said Blue Cross spokesman Austin Vevurka.
Vevurka said the insurance giant was trying to negotiate with an out-of-network provider for urgent or emergency care Amounts over $ 25,000, but he said, "If they refuse, we'll pay the member because we're there by contract
"We have applied this policy to many providers in the state and as a result have generally successfully negotiated payments directly to the provider," he said.
Hand says he does not know that Blue Cross has ever negotiated payments in excess of $ 25,000 with an out-of-network provider.
Blue Cross sends the money directly to the patients "so they can force people into their network, they are pretty blatant," said Hand. Almost every other insurance company pays out-of-network providers directly, he said.
"Blue Cross uses patients as a negotiating chip," said Hand.
It is a practice that wants to see its union changed.
Also Mike Causey, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner.
"Generous insurance benefits and lump sums with few restrictions on out-of-network providers are a real problem that needs to be addressed by health insurers and legislators," Causey said in a statement to CNN.
"The current system is making it far too easy to commit fraud and destroy lives, and the question of how insurers use contract provisions prohibiting the assignment of benefits is currently under review Protecting Those Affected Provides consumers with the opportunity to control health care costs Our concern is that provisions such as these can be used and we are looking for ways to address this issue. "
" Can I'm buried with Grandma? "
Alba reaches for her silver necklace, which is marked with the name of her son, his fingerprint and a heart.
A decorative wooden box with some of her son's ashes resting on a table in the front hallway alongside photographs of her boy over the years. The remainder of his ashes are buried about an hour away.
His DJ turntable sits unused in the garage. "That was his passion," she says. "It was one of the few things that made him happy."
Her son was an outgoing person with a warm heart and dry humor, she says. In addition to his drug addiction, he struggled with suicidal thoughts and other mental health problems. He said that he hated being addicted and that he hoped to become a substance abuse adviser if he ever got over his addiction. She says he once remembered trying to help a heroin addicted young woman.
"She's not listening to me," he told his mother. "You do not understand how hard that is."
"Yes, I do," his mother answered.
When she realized the truth, he burst into tears.
Her son started winding in late January 2017 after being blind in a Wilmington bar. He was there to meet friends when he was attacked. Someone hit him in the chin and broke it so much that there was a centimeter break on the lower right, as his medical records indicate. Some of his front teeth were shattered.
A friend took Hockett to a nearby hospital, where he underwent several procedures, including caking his jaw due to the extensive fracture. The hospital was not in his insurance network.
Hockett was also prescribed the potent opioid oxycodone for his excruciating pain. He always preferred a mixture of cocaine, Xanax and alcohol, says his mother. Now he had something stronger.
On March 11, about six weeks after his jaw broke, he woke up alone in a hotel room with a huge pool of blood on the floor and bedside table.
He had overdosed, and what he had taken did not remind him of events. He began to help his mother for help:
Three days later, Hockett was still struggling with memory loss and sent Alba a series of tormenting text messages:
Over the next three weeks, he wrote about how he never wanted to take drugs again. That he wanted to start afresh and make her proud.
But like so many who struggle with addiction, Hockett falls again, this time in early April. He returned to a treatment center on April 8th.
The ups and downs of the recovery continued over the next few weeks. Whenever his mother began to believe her son had gone around the corner, a new text would appear.
The next morning he came back to the detox clinic.
He fought on for the next three months. In between, he sent texts that he wanted a Shar-Pei, a dog known for its deep wrinkles and dark tongue. He talked about the size of his two younger brothers and talked about cooking a steak for his mother.
Your son would cook this meal for her – a last supper she cherishes to this day. He drove past the house in front of Raleigh and grilled a steak for the family. They laughed and told stories. The next morning he went to Wilmington, about two hours away on the North Carolina coast where his girlfriend lived.
On August 31, 2017, at 10:53, he sent another text to his mother. By that time he had already deposited the $ 33,000 from Blue Cross and had withdrawn at least $ 10,000.
"I love you, Mom," he said.
She answered the next morning at 5:31 am, "I love you."
Joseph Hockett II is found dead at noon on the second afternoon of the second afternoon, September 2, 2017. Alba remembers looking out of her window. Three policemen stood in the driveway and hung their heads.
She knew it immediately.
A few weeks later, when the police returned their son's property, she found the receipts and the Blue Cross material in his backpack. She says she called Blue Cross, put her in there and really "let her have it."
It was said that a supervisor would call back. She never did, she says.
"A slap in the heart"
The rectangular tombstone reads:
JOSEPH ALEXANDER HOCKETT II
April 5, 1988
SEPT. 2, 2017
LOVING SON & GRANDSON
His mother kept her promise to her son. Most of his ashes are buried with his grandmother Myra Thompson Long, who was the second mother to help raise him.
"Seeing your child's name on a tombstone," says Alba, "it's like a slap in the heart."
At Alba's cemetery comes Jess D & # 39; Englere, who met Hockett in elementary school and remained connected to him all his life. She remembers him for "his clever mouth," but says he is "the warmest person."
"He would make you smile," she says. "I'm really glad to be here for his mother."
Just steps away from his grave, D & # 39; Englere says the Blue Cross checks amaze her. After her own operation four years ago, she received a check from the insurer for more than $ 3,000 – an amount worth more than her car.
. There was no explanation for what the review was for or what it should do with it. D & # 39; Englere says. After speaking with several Blue Cross representatives, she received the following explanation: "It's your money, but not your money." At the end, she deposited the check and sent the money to her provider.
"It was confusing," she says. "It did not make any logical sense."
The temptation to keep the money is great. "What other emotion would you have?"
Imagine, she says what it looks like for a person who fights like Hockett with an addiction "when you see that kind of money."
The wind whips through the cemetery The Shallow Ford Christian Church provides for a cold refreshment.
Alba fights the tears. "He should not have died like that," she says. "It's not the normal order of life."
She and her son used to visit his grandmother's grave to pray and honor her memory. "Well, they are at peace with each other, it's just strange to see it," she says. "But that's what he wanted."
The sign in front of the church bears a fitting message: "What in the world am I here?"
As Alba stands over her eldest son's grave, says she wants her to speak here for her son and make him "proud that he will not forget."
"I could not save him, but I'll never stop talking about him," she says. "Why else would we go through hell for 16 years? That's why."
She repeats: "That's the reason."