Press "Enter" to skip to content

COVID-19 tests are supposed to be free, but these people got bills for thousands of dollars

While Congress handed a regulation to guarantee nobody would keep away from getting examined for the coronavirus as a result of of the price, specialists say loopholes and mix-ups have left some people with massive bills to pay. People returning to their jobs additionally may wind up having to pay for COVID-19 tests, they warned.

Miki Kikuta made a visit to Japan in late January, as she does as soon as a year. But this time, she mentioned, she got here again severely unwell.

“I just got off the plane. I go to bed. It was around midnight. So maybe like six hours after, I had a really high fever. It was 104 degrees,” Kikuta mentioned.

Click right here to share your story and search costs

Because Japan was already reporting instances of COVID-19, she went to the hospital to be sure she wasn’t infectious, and docs ran some tests.

“The doctor came into my room and said, ‘Hey, good news, you don’t have the coronavirus.’ I was like, ‘Oh okay, I don’t have COVID-19,’” she recalled. 

But later, Kikuta got a invoice for over $2,400. 

She mentioned she discovered that though her docs did run tests on her, they didn’t take a look at her for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, apparently due to restrictions that had been in place on testing again in February. She mentioned as a result of of that, her insurance coverage company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, wouldn’t totally cover the invoice for her hospital go to.  

“I wouldn’t have gone to the ER if I didn’t go to Japan or if COVID-19 wasn’t even a thing,” Kikuta mentioned. “But I knew how contagious it was, and, you know, you can kill someone if you expose someone else if you had it. … So now I’m just stuck with this big bill that they don’t even want to try — even to do anything about, honestly.”

Stories like hers are cropping up, even if below laws handed by Congress in March, COVID-19 tests and associated expenses are supposed to be lined. 

Congress’ promise isn’t holding up, mentioned Sabrina Corlette, co-director at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

“There are far too many people who are either falling through the cracks because of some of these loopholes that the health plans are taking advantage of, not to pay for it,” she informed “CBS This Morning” shopper investigative correspondent Anna Werner.

Alex Goodman went to a Colorado emergency room in April after struggling to sleep for a pair of nights.

“It felt like it was because it was difficult for me to breathe, like as if I couldn’t breathe in as much,” Goodman mentioned.

Doctors did a COVID-19 take a look at, but Goodman, too, got a invoice from his insurance coverage company.

“It said that my total was a bit over 3,000 or so,” he mentioned. “That was the amount that I was going to have to pay.”

Goodman, a NASA worker, did a little bit digging and reached out to Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a physician who wrote an article warning about billing issues.

“I want people to know, first and foremost, that if they get a COVID test, they should not pay for that test and they should not pay for the visit. If they do get a bill for even the test with the visit, they need to call their insurer and contest the bill,” Chua mentioned.

Goodman did simply that. His insurance coverage company Anthem Blue Cross reversed the invoice in just some days. 

But some main members of Congress say current administration steering on insurance coverage company funds for testing presents a brand new, greater downside. In a letter despatched this week to three members of President Trump’s cupboard, 5 congressional Democrats say the administration wrongly claimed “COVID-19 testing for surveillance or employment purposes are not required to be covered” below the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The lawmakers mentioned “there have been troubling reports regarding some health plans refusing to provide coverage of tests,” together with for “employee return to work programs.”

“It is a huge problem,” Corlette mentioned. “You know, it’s one of these crazy situations where we have a lot of people who are going to be required to get a test to get back to work, but there’s no requirement that their employer plan pay for it.”

Kikuta did get her invoice paid. She mentioned after refusing to pay for three months, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois reversed course this week, in the future after CBS News known as to ask about her case. The company informed CBS News in an announcement that each one clients have the precise to enchantment in the event that they really feel they had been wrongfully denied any advantages.

Anthem Blue Cross informed CBS News in an announcement that if members really feel their bills ought to have been waived, it’s “encouraging them to reach out” and “raise the issue or to file an appeal.”

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson informed CBS News the letter from congressional members failed to make a distinction between diagnostic and surveillance testing. Insurance firms are required to cover diagnostic testing for their members with out imposing any cost-sharing, but surveillance screening is carried out as a public well being exercise, which is funded otherwise, the spokesperson mentioned.

In our sequence, “Medical Price Roulette,” CBS News is collaborating with journalists at ClearHealthPrices to carry transparency to well being care markets. We’d like to know what you paid for medical procedures. Share your story and study how one can search ClearHealthPrices’ database of costs in our pattern markets. You can even electronic mail us at [email protected]