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Some COVID-19 patients are getting bills for testing despite federal CARES Act

CDC employee tests positive for coronavirus
Posted at 6:43 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 18:43:07-04

(WXYZ) — Across the country, people who were tested for coronavirus are suddenly ending up with bills, even though the U.S. government promised Americans they wouldn’t get those bills.

If you’ve received unexpected medical bills related to COVID19, please email us at rebounddetroit@wxyz.com

Long before an epidemic swept across the globe, Anna Davis Abel was already spending her days trying not to get sick. Abel is 25 years old and has been living with a chronic illness for most of her life.

“The way everyone feels right now is the way it always feels to live with a chronic illness,” said Abel.

In early March, after returning home from a trip, Abel started feeling sick. Even after taking a terrifying trip to the doctor, Abel was told there were no tests available at the time. And her symptoms only got worse.

“I was going from being super sweaty, to cold. I developed a cough on the third or fourth day,” said Abel.

Initially she was diagnosed with the flu. When that didn’t get better, Abel was finally given a COVID test. It’s a test that under federal guidelines was supposed to be covered by her insurance company. Imagine her surprise when a bill for $536.46 showed up a few weeks ago.

“I think it shows at the end of the day it’s a healthcare industry that is not first about health,” said Abel.

The CARES Act mandates COVID tests be covered by insurance companies. But as Americans are finding out, there are loopholes.

Many times the tests aren’t billed correctly. Or in Abel’s case, she was tested before the law went into effect.

“Most people when they get a medical bill, they’re frustrated, they’re angry and don’t know what to do anything about it, and that’s what insurance companies are relying on,” said Abel. “COVID 19 billing and medical debt is going to be a nightmare,” said Craig Antico, the cofounder of RIP Medical Debt.

His concern is that many of us will just assume COVID tests were covered, and then months later end up with a bill.

“People aren’t going to feel the pressure of paying these bills until almost a year from now,” said Antico. As for Abel, her insurance company eventually admitted a billing error and reversed the charge. “As the discourse moves past the fears we had, there will be less pressure for the insurance companies to be held accountable,” said Abel.

Here’s the Rebound Rundown:

If you think you've been charged incorrectly, don't ignore or let yourself forget about the charge. Ask for an itemized copy of your bill so you can see and evaluate each charge individually. You might spot more errors.

Then, try to get someone from your insurance company on the phone to resolve the problem.

As a last resort, consider filing a complaint with the state insurance commission.

We want to hear from you if are you getting unexpected coronavirus bills. Please email us at rebounddetroit@wxyz.com

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Read our daily Coronavirus Live Blog for the latest updates and news on coronavirus.

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.

See all of our Helping Each Other stories.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.