Essential Worker Shoulders $1,840 Debt For Trying To Get Tested For COVID-19

Carmen Quintero couldn't get tested for COVID-19, but ended up with a huge bill for trying to. She also was told to self-isolate and had no choice but to use vacation time to stay home from work.

6/30/2020 3:37:00 PM

Carmen is an essential worker at a warehouse that ships N95 masks. When she started showing symptoms in March, she went to her doctor, and then to the ER, to try to get tested for COVID-19. She didn't get a test — but ended up with a bill for $1,840.

Carmen Quintero couldn't get tested for COVID-19, but ended up with a huge bill for trying to. She also was told to self-isolate and had no choice but to use vacation time to stay home from work.

.That legislation turned out to be riddled with loopholes, especially for people like Quintero who needed and wanted a coronavirus test but couldn't get one early in the pandemic.Insurers do have to cover tests, but when a patient goes to see a doctor to be checked out for COVID-19 symptoms, if no test is ordered or administered,

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to cover the appointment without cost sharing.So Quintero was on the hook for the copay."I just didn't think it was fair because I went in there to get tested," she said.Someinsurance companies are voluntarily reducing copaymentsfor COVID-related emergency room visits. But Quintero said her insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, would not reduce her bill. Anthem would not discuss the case until Quintero signed its own privacy waiver; it would not accept a signed standard waiver KHN uses. The hospital would not discuss the bill with a reporter unless Quintero could also be on the phone, something that has yet to be arranged around Quintero's workday, which begins at 4 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.

Three stateshave gone further than Congress to waive cost sharing for testing and diagnosis of pneumonia and influenza, given these illnesses are often mistaken for COVID-19. California is not one of them, and because Quintero's employer is self-insured — the company pays for health services directly from its own funds — it is exempt from state directives anyway. The U.S. Department of Labor regulates all self-funded insurance plans. In 2019,

were in these types of plans.Related Health Care Hurdle:On that day in late March when her body shook from coughing, Quintero's immediate worry was infecting her family, especially her girlfriend's parents, both over 65, and her 84-year-old grandmother.

"If something was to happen to them, I don't know if I would have been able to live with it," said Quintero.Quintero wanted to isolate in a hotel, but she could hardly afford to for the week that she stayed home. She had only three paid sick days and was forced to take vacation time until her symptoms subsided and she was allowed back at work. At the time, few places provided publicly funded hotel rooms for sick people to isolate, and Quintero was not offered any help.

As lockdown restrictions ease and coronavirus cases rise around the country, public health officials say quickly isolating sick people before the virus spreads through families is essential.But isolation efforts have gotten little attention in the U.S. Nearly all local health departments, including Riverside County where Quintero lives, now have these programs, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Many were designed to shelter people experiencing homelessness but can be used to isolate others.

Raymond Niaura, interim chairman of the Department of Epidemiology at New York University, said these programs are used inconsistently and have been poorly promoted to the public."No one has done this before and a lot of what's happening is that people are making it up as they go along," said Niaura."We've just never been in a circumstance like this."

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Resolution:The bills have been a constant worry. Quintero called the hospital and her insurance company and complained that she should not have to pay since she was seeking a test on her doctor's orders. Neither budged, and the bills labeled"payment reminders" soon became"final notices." She reluctantly agreed to pay $100 a month toward her balance — $50 to the hospital and $50 to the doctors.

"None of them wanted to work with me," Quintero said."I just have to give the first payment on each bill so they wouldn't send me to collections."On top of that, Quintero still worries about bringing the virus home to her family and fears being in the same room with her grandmother. Quintero returns from work every day now, puts her clothes in a separate hamper and diligently washes her hands before she interacts with anyone.

The Takeaways:At this point in the pandemic, tests are more widely available and federal law is very clearly on your side: You should not be charged any cost sharing for a coronavirus test.Be wary, though, if your doctor directs you to the emergency room for a COVID test, because any additional care you get there could come at a high price. Ask if there are any other testing sites available.

If you do find yourself with a big bill related to suspected COVID, push beyond a telephone call with your insurance company and file a formal appeal. If you feel comfortable, ask your employer's human resources staff to argue on your behalf. Then, call the help line for your state insurance commissioner and file a separate appeal. Press insurers — and big companies that offer self-insured plans — to follow the spirit of the law, even if the letter of the law seems to let them off the hook.

If you suspect you have COVID-19 and need to isolate to protect vulnerable members of your household, call your local public health department. Most counties have isolation and quarantine programs, but these resources are not well known. You may be placed in a hotel, recreational vehicle or other type of housing while you wait out the infection period. You do not need to have a positive COVID test to qualify for these programs and can use these programs while you await your test result. But this is an area in which public health officials repeatedly offer clear guidance — 14 days of isolation — which most people find impossible to follow.

Read more: NPR »

Absolutely disgusting to see how AnthemBCBS keep using dirty tricks to avoid covering essential medical needs in a time of public health crisis. how can that be true, the president said on tv that if you want a test you can get a test. surely he wouldn't be lying, again. She needed to be a protester then she would have gotten a free test. No Justice for the frontline workers.

DrMaryHicks wow! This IS life in the US. Healthcare costs beyond the ability of a NORMAL income to pay for MOST (many millions even with insurance) in the US. Yet JoeBiden thinks that's just fine. So do the Republicans and most Democrats. US rapidly changing from '1st' to '3rd world' country. Gotta love our healthcare system.

3M actually hired this person? She could have gone to a Walmart parking lot and had it done for free! eattherich classwarfare guillotine2020 brokenhealthcaresystem Stop striking YouTube channels! shameonyou Vote Democrat! Wait, that won't change anything.... Vote Republican! Wait, that won't change anything....

That’s what hospitals do. Few years back I was taken to the hospital not wanting to go but had been throwing up for 8 or more hours so I was taken to the ER and drugged and scanned and scanned and all the test to find nothing. Had insurance and was told I had to stay otherwise they would not sign my release. I stayed and then got a bill for 5,000.

That's why you don't go to the ER for non-emergent health care. Man that sucks. System is messed up. Insurance co won’t cover 3mo prescription, but will cover 1 mo. Turns out it’s cheaper for me to pay for a 3mo prescription out of pocket. So is she sick or what? Let’s help her out! Someone post up her GoFundme or PP

Democrats and BLM organized millions to mob our streets exposing spreading infection How about a 'go fund me' page for this girl? I don’t see anything discussing what her results were after going through the grievance process? Are they governed by DMHC or DEpt of insurance? What about going that route? Article doesn’t mention anything about results after this process

kevinlockett How can you end up with a bill if they didn't do anything? Wow I feel so bad for this situation. People should have health in Canada. That’s just wrong! That is amoral. Could you please find out if she has a Venmo account and add it here if so? This is the real America. So very unfair.

Go to an Urgent Care Clinic, not an ER. Emergency rooms are for emergencies. Who knew. Our health system is a JOKE. No fault of front-line workers. I recently went to app: reviewed test results I already read online; was told couldn't get Rx due to COVID effect on supply line (no accept. alt.); going back to old doc. Should have done on phone - FOR FREE. Useless.

This is ridiculous. We should set up a gofund me for her! She was helping with essential supplies for a pandemic. There’s no reason she should carry that debt. Healthcare “system” in U.S. is totally f*d up & is geared 2 PROFITS-screw ppl who need it😡 Example: recent EKG by contractor in ER 4 fam mbr was billed $4849. EKGs normally=$180. We’re not paying, ins. comp is going after them, & I reported them 2 states attny HealthcareScams

Republicans want you to work for nothing and pay taxes. When you can't, peace out. ProjectLincoln what a shitshow Hugs, my American neighbours. You deserve better. This is absurd! I teleconferenced with my doctor for less than 5 minutes and he billed me $125 with no Covid test when that's all I wanted. I told him off and he's no longer my doctor.

that ACA is a bitch huh? start a go-fund me like everybody else on the planet Carmen. Obamacare! This is an example of Medical Criminality! The healthcare industrial complex loves having the unskilled show up at the ER. Progressives love it, too I’m so pissed at these headlines. We have a Presidential candidate that wanted change for healthcare, civil rights, and workers right and we flushed him down the toilet. After we flushed him, we then get pissed that the system hasn’t changed. BernienotBiden

Why she went to emergency room to get Covid test? She should send the bill to 1600 Black Lives Matter Blvd. Or Trump Tower. Meanwhile my Primary Physician TESTED me in her OFFICE, No Charge. My HEALTH Insurance picked up the BILL. This is fucked up. This wouldn't happen to her in ancestral lands. Testing sites are free everywhere. Lol. NPR finding another grievance to peddle.

That’s absurd The best healthcare in the world doesn't come free.

China reports 19 new COVID-19 cases, including seven in BeijingChina on Tuesday reported 19 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for June 29, up from 12 a day earlier, the health authority said. There were no new deaths. A disgusting nation! A disgusting nation! We are f. U ( | ED

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Mainland China reports 12 new COVID-19 cases vs 17 a day earlierMainland China reported 12 new confirmed COVID-19 cases as of end of June 28, down from 17 reported a day earlier, the country's National Health Commission (NHC) said on Monday. If you believe this I want whatever you’re on

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Global COVID-19 Deaths Top 500,000The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 10 million on Sunday while deaths topped half a million. Health officials estimate the actual case count could be much higher. realDonaldTrump told you COVID19 would disappear. “Like a miracle” he said. Now, as cases surge and death continues in much of the US, Trump wants to cancel health insurance coverage for as many as 23 million Americans. It’s time to dump Trumprona and rebuild with Biden2020. U.S. did not do the job. How embarrassing and tragic.