While COVID-19 testing is supposed to be free for Americans, many are reporting receiving large bills for hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars from health providers.
Among them is Jaden Janak who took a test Tulsa hospital that resulted in $4,031 in bills and a year’s worth of calls from debt collectors, reported CBS News.
Some health providers are tacking on additional facility, laboratory or emergency room fees onto the simple process of getting a test.
The issue has risen questions about the confusing aspects of navigating America’s health care system, and its sometimes exorbitant costs.
Jaden Janak (pictured) told CBS News that he was billed more than $4,000 after receiving a Covid test at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, hospital that he believed was free
While Janak’s insurance company paid one of the two bills he received, for $2,700, the remaining $1,300 bill remains unpaid. He has received calls from debt collectors over the past year to collect the amount. The insurance company plans to pay the bill for him, but could not send him a check earlier due to a change in address
‘I felt very angry. I felt deceived,’ Janak told CBS News.
Janak has gotten tested at Tulsa ER & Hospital in Oklahoma last year after his 75-year-old grandmother died from Covid.
He received a rapid test, which usually gives a person results in 15 to 45 minutes, and believed it would be free.
He then received two bills, one for around $2,700 for use of an emergency room, and another for $1,300 for a doctor.
Janak is insured by BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, who said they would send him checks to cover the bill.
He did receive a check from his insurance provider for the first bill, but the second check never got to him after he changed addresses.
Janak told CBS that he still has been unable to pay that bill and receives regular calls from debt collectors seeking out payment.
‘What if this happens to someone else and they do truly believe that they are personally liable for these charges? How are they going to be able to make ends meet given where the economy is?’ Janak said.
The hospital said they will not charge him any extra for the long delay in receiving payment and will accept whatever amount the insurance company sends him, once he actually receives the money.
Janak is not alone in getting caught between medical providers and insurance companies after receiving a test he believed was free.
‘Tulsa ER & Hospital […], along with all emergency rooms in America, are required by the U.S. Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) to provide a medical screening exam (MSE) on patients to determine if an emergency medical condition exists. If a condition is determined to exist, we are also required to treat and stabilize the patient,’ the hospital told CBS News.
Jamie Costanza (pictured) and her husband Barry, owe more than $500 to a South Carolina hospital after receiving Covid tests that they believed were free. The hospital says the couple received tests at an emergency tent, not the testing area, and since they were allegedly treated for allergies – despite not asking for it – they were billed for an emergency room visit.
Barry and Jaime Constanzo of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, told CBS News they now owe over $500 after receiving Covid tests.
The couple was tested at Conway Medical Center after getting tested ahead of a trip to visit their grandkids.
The health center alleges that testing is free at its facility, but the couple went to the wrong place.
Free testing is available at a ‘free drive-through testing’ area, while they went to an ’emergency department triage tent’, CBS News reports.
Since they had technically entered an emergency room, the medical center was legally obligated to evaluate and treat them, even though all they had asked for was a Covid test.
That treatment was then billed to them, and the couple’s insurance only partly covered it.
‘They tell you you’re negative, then they ask you why you’re here, and then they look in your ears, nose and mouth, and the next thing you know, you get a bill, non-COVID related,’ Barry Constanzo said.
‘…Why would I go to a hospital or to any testing site for COVID if I was there for allergies?’
‘Conway Medical Center has free COVID-19 drive-through testing offered 7 days a week from 8am – 4pm,’ the system said in a statement to CBS News.
‘If a patient comes to our Emergency Department requesting just COVID-19 testing, they are referred to the free drive-through testing. If the patient presents with symptoms requesting and/or requiring other care, as was the case for the Costanzos, we are legally bound to medically evaluate, treat, and discharge that patient in our Emergency Department.’
Sabrina Corlette, founder and co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University, in Washington D.C., blamed confusion built into the American health care system for this types of situations.
‘Part of it is because our health care system is very complicated and confusing,’ she told CBS.
She said that some medical providers are using the Covid tests to find ways to charge people ancillary fees.
‘If you get a physical exam or they say, ‘Well, let’s test you for flu or other things as well,’ all of that visit is supposed to be covered by the insurer,’ she said.