Investigation of Hidden Costs in “Free” Coronavirus Testing

Were you charged for what was supposed to be a free Covid-19 test? Did your insurance provider refuse to pay the bill, or refuse to pay for things like the office visit or lab fees? We’re investigating to see if a class action is needed.

Congress has required that insurance companies cover testing and a government program has been set up to cover tests for the uninsured. Still, many people are finding that they are being billed for other costs associated with the procedure—separate charges for an office visit, for example, for a flu test that is given at the same time, or for out-of-network charges.

A New York Times article highlights the case of a woman who got tested after seeing ads about free tests, only to receive a bill for $2,718. The article is entitled, “Coronavirus Tests Are Supposed to Be Free. The Surprise Bills Come Anyway.”

Tests for Covid-19 are important element in getting the coronavirus under control. People who don’t know they have the virus are unlikely to be careful about quarantining or taking other precautions. To make sure that money was not an obstacle to getting tested, Congress has passed two pieces of legislation on billing for tests.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act informed insurance companies that they could not apply co-payments or deductibles for tests, whether the tests are for the coronavirus itself or for antibodies.

The CARES Act went further, establishing rules for out-of-network tests, which also had to be covered at no charge to the person being tested. Out-of-network tests tend to be more expensive.

However, this has not stopped the bills from coming. Some parties claim this is because the US healthcare system has complicated coding and billing procedures, so that the services provided aren’t always clear. Policies may not be clear about out-of-network testing. “In other cases,” the New York Times article says, “insurers are interpreting gray areas in these new rules in ways that work in their favor.” Others seem to be simply denying claims.

“Patients’ bills suggest that the rules aren’t always being followed,” the article says. “Insurers have, for example, applied co-payments and deductibles to the tests, claim documents show.”

Unfortunately, many people are used to getting unexpected bills from their health providers, or they simply don’t know they should be paying nothing at all for their tests.

Tests are important. People who provide essential services, such as health care workers, supermarket clerks, and police officers are necessarily exposed to the virus, and they must make sure that they are not spreading it to the rest of us. Tests to find out if they’re infected should not be a financial burden they have to shoulder alone, when Congress has already provided for free testing.

If you’ve been billed for a coronavirus test, or for associated services like an “office visit” or “after-hours fee,” we’d like to know what your experience was. Fill out the form on this page and let us know.

Article Type: Investigation
Topic: medical
No case events.
Tags: Covid-19 Related, Medical Billing, medical