Is Covid adding to your medical bills?

Did you know that a “Covid” fee might pop up on your medical bills when you or a loved one access healthcare? Though the surprise billing might throw you off, it is happening across America.

Healthcare providers across the country are adding “Covid” fees to patient billing. According to The New York Times, these healthcare providers’ surprise billing is being implemented to bear the costs and financial difficulties associated with the pandemic.

In their investigation on the “Covid” fee, the New York Times spoke to Michael Hambley, who got a call from his 87-year-old mother in July last year. His mother told him that the assisted living facility that she paid for using her pension required her to pay an additional one-time $900 fee to cater for masks, cleaning supplies and meal delivery.

The New York Times soon realized that Michael’s mother’s case was not an isolated incident. Jennifer Koeckhoven had a similar experience when she was found a $60 personal protective equipment charge on her mother’s ambulance bill- a charge not covered by the insurance.

The “Covid” fee was found to be most rampant in dental offices and assisted living facilities. Since the onset of the pandemic, health providers have had to wear protective gear and sanitize in the face of declining revenue.

Dental offices have lost billions in revenue due to the suspension of nonurgent dental care. In the same vein, assisted living facilities have had to reduce the number of admissions to their facilities.

Most healthcare providers have had to turn to their patients to address the revenue shortfall. And to make up for the revenue shrinkage, “Covid” and “PPE” fees have been added to patients’ medical bills.

Last year, the American Dental Association urged dental health plans to repay a new fee to cover the expense. While some health plans did as per the association’s suggestion, some haven’t—leaving patients fumbling to clear these bills independently.

These fees have come under much pressure, considering they came as many Americans were reeling from job loss. State attorneys generally felt that charging patients directly was taking advantage of vulnerable consumers and would violate health insurance contracts and consumer protection laws.

And despite some insurance companies covering Covid costs, a 2020 study by the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation calculated the potential costs of Covid-19 treatment and care for people that get their insurance through employers, found that people with private insurance who become seriously ill could face out-of-pocket costs of more $1,300.

These surprise billings are likely to discourage consumers from seeking medical treatment for fears of incurring additional medical bills. While Federal law requires insurers to waive cost-sharing for Covid-19 testing and the associated medical visit, the waiver does not extend to treatment.  It, unfortunately, does not extend to prevent balance billing if an out-of-network provider or facility treats a patient.

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