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Why did you get billed for a COVID-19 test?

covid testing
Posted at 5:04 AM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 13:25:32-04

Over the last year, most of us have been tested for COVID. Some of you have been billed for tests you thought were free.

Tammy Delgado's daughter got a drive-thru COVID test through Banner Health. Then her daughter got a bill for $127.

Katherine Welch also got a drive-thru COVID test at an Embry Women's Health event.

"When I originally registered on there, it said free COVID testing," Welch says. "I didn't expect to get anything until I got this in the mail," she says.

It's a bill for $82.90.

Just like COVID vaccines, COVID tests should also be free to people getting them. Either insurers or the government picks up the test cost. But people we're hearing from say they're not charged for the test. Instead, they're getting billed for the process.

"If they come in and say you've never been to this office before, we just want to run through some things, that should send a warning bell," Caitlin Donovan says.

Donovan is with the non-profit National Patient Advocate Foundation. She says some providers are finding creative ways to charge COVID test-related fees.

We asked her to look at the two bills. "They were charging for a new patient visit instead of just a test. That was a concern for me," Donovan says.

She's talking about Welch's bill from Embry Women's Health charging $82 for a new patient/office visit.

"All I did was go through a drive-in COVID test," Welch says. She says she shouldn't have to pay the added charges.

We contacted Embry Women's Health. And they agree. A spokesperson says the bill was sent in error by a vendor and Welch does not have to pay.

They say their only COVID test charge is for a rapid test and that is paid on-site. And they say if you paid anything related to a COVID test or are being billed, let them know.

Delgado feels the same way about her daughter's drive-thru test.

"At that time, I was told I was paying for the nurse," she says. But her $127 bill from Banner Health shows an office/outpatient charge.

A Banner Health spokesperson says they can't comment specifically for privacy reasons.

Generally, he says Banner "bills insurance companies for the cost of administering COVID tests. This is the practice followed by many health care providers nationwide. While most insurance companies cover these costs, that decision is up to each insurance company."

In this case what wasn't paid, Banner passed on the cost.

Donovan says while there's nothing preventing that, if there are any provider costs, they should be minimal. She says you must protect yourself before getting the test.

"Call the office ahead of time and say, 'I want a COVID test, what would my out-of-pocket costs be?'" she says. If you are charged later, contest it with your insurer.

And Donovan says wait to pay any medical bill.

"Half the bills we see have mistakes in them," she says.

The National Patient Advocate Foundation has funds set up to help with COVID costs.

See if you qualify for help or if you'd like to give to the Foundation's work.

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