Even With COVID Coverage Safety Net, Patients Hit With Hefty Hospital Bills

By Consumers For Quality Care, on October 28, 2020

Even With COVID Coverage Safety Net, Patients Hit With Hefty Hospital Bills

Despite promises by the federal government to cover costs associated with COVID-19 testing, people who receive negative tests or get tested outside their network are still vulnerable to big bills, reports FOX Milwaukee.

“There are in our system, unfortunately, lots of times when people are going to fall through the cracks,” said Sabrina Corlette, co-director of Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

While the majority of the seven million Americans who have tested positive for COVID-19 will incur few medical costs, many patients who visited the emergency room or wound up hospitalized from the virus are financially at risk.

After five hours in a Connecticut emergency room, Melissa Szymanski wound up with bills totaling more than $3,000 because she didn’t qualify for a test at a time when hospitals were limiting testing.

Because Szymanski was never diagnosed with COVID-19, her insurer said she was on the hook for the bills.

“I was surprised that I got a bill because it just so clearly seemed to be COVID,” said Szymanski, who also shared her story with the nonprofit Patient Rights Advocate.

Szymanski was able to get a blood test later that proved she had the virus. Now, she’s working to reduce her bills.

While the federal government said it would reimburse hospitals that treat uninsured patients for COVID-19, Kaiser Family Foundation says that 78 insurers have also waived expenses for patients covered by their plans. However, the waivers may only apply to those who seek care within an insurer’s network. Sometimes in-network patients can end up getting hit with a big bill too.

If a large bill does arrive, experts say that patients shouldn’t immediately pay it. It’s important to first ask questions and check for errors.