By Consumers for Quality Care, on March 11, 2020
An American man and his daughter who were living in Wuhan, China at the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak were evacuated at the United States government’s request. After two weeks of quarantine at a US Marine Corps base in California, he found a large surprise medical bill waiting for him, according to a recent New York Times report.
Frank Wucisnki, along with his 3-year-old daughter Annabel, returned to the US from China in February. After two weeks of mandatory quarantine, the Pennsylvania native found a $3,918 bill waiting for him with his mother in Harrisburg.
“I assumed it was all being paid for,” Mr. Wucinski said. “We didn’t have a choice. When the bills showed up, it was just a pit in my stomach, like, ‘How do I pay for this?’”
Wucinski’s employer provided medical benefits to him and his family while they were living in China, as they have for years, but did not offer coverage in the United States.
The Times also noted the US government has the authority to quarantine and isolate patients “if officials believe them to be a public health threat.”
They don’t say anything about who pays when the isolation happens in a nongovernmental medical facility — or when they’re brought there by a private ambulance company.
This could pose a grave threat to the financial wellbeing of many Americans who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 or are ordered to quarantine for a fixed period of time.
And increased financial risks to seeking help or treatment could exacerbate many problems with the global pandemic, according to Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University.
“The most important rule of public health is to gain the cooperation of the population,” he said. “There are legal, moral and public health reasons not to charge the patients.”