New Mexico Hospital Nurse Gets Surprise Bill After Mandatory COVID-19 Test

By Consumers For Quality Care, on May 13, 2020

New Mexico Hospital Nurse Gets Surprise Bill After Mandatory COVID-19 Test

The Albuquerque Journal reports on the experience of University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) nurse Marie Sparks, who was hit with a surprise bill after taking a mandatory COVID-19 test.

After taking a trip, Sparks was required by UNHM to get tested for coronavirus before returning to work in the hospital’s intensive care unit. While she tested negative for the virus, she was shocked to receive a $1,500 bill. And Sparks wasn’t alone. Several UNHM employees also received surprise bills after mandatory coronavirus testing.

Under state and federal orders, patients should not share the cost of testing and treatment related to COVID-19. Mark Rudi, a hospital spokesman, has since acknowledged the bills, and said they will be adjusted:

“The response to COVID-19 has been very swift and fluid with updates in guidelines to lab testing, diagnostic coding and benefit coding. We are working with Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico to identify impacted members and adjust claims for members being billed for visits related to a COVID-19 test,” Rudi said in a statement. “UNMH remains committed to covering the cost of COVID-19 testing and related treatment for our members who are covered by the UNMH health plan.”

According to Sparks, she was told by the hospital that the bill was not a result of the COVID-19 testing, but rather for tests checking for other potentially related viruses.

Prior to Sparks’ experience, Russell Toal, New Mexico’s Superintendent of Insurance, issued an order prohibiting patients from sharing any costs related to COVID-19 tests and treatment, including testing for influenza and pneumonia. According to Toal, these expenses would discourage patients from getting tested and ultimately create more public health problems.

His office has set up a hotline to help patients resolve billing issues, and state officials have been able to resolve those problems.