Patient owes thousands for COVID-19 treatment
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WSMV) - A Middle Tennessee man now owes thousands of dollars after being treated for COVID-19 in a local hospital, News4 Investigates has discovered.
What News4 Investigates uncovered will have you double-checking your insurance policy.
The man asked why the COVID-19 relief funds weren’t helping with his bills.
“I got diagnosed on a Wednesday. And by Saturday morning, I woke up, and I couldn’t breathe,” a former COVID patient said.
Because the man works for a Middle Tennessee hospital, he asked us not to identify him. However, he now owes more than $4,000 after being treated for COVID at Williamson Medical Center.
“I haven’t paid it. It’s past 30 days, and now I’m nervous about what’s going to happen next,” the patient said.
The calls from collection agencies have been coming for months, along with multiple bills reminding him of his balance.
But what he wants to know is why does he owe this much if hospitals are still receiving COVID relief funds, money he thought was meant to help pay his bill.
“What is it for if it’s not for this?” the patient asked.
News4 Investigates started looking into it and found out that hospitals such as Williamson Medical Center did receive millions of dollars, it’s not to cover the cost of patient care.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, they created funds to help healthcare providers.
For example, providers can use these funds for salaries, personal protection equipment (PPE), ventilators, and other expenses related to preventing, preparing for, or responding to COVID-19.
The patient told News4 he thought the funds were to help cover costs to the patients.
“I was under the impression it was to cover things like this,” the patient said when asked if he expected to pay anything out of pocket.
A healthcare advocate told News4 that patients should expect to pay more out-of-pocket for COVID-19 care.
“Unfortunately, they should expect it,” Martine Brousse, a medical billing specialist who works for AdvimedPro, said.
Brousse said insurance companies aren’t cutting people slack like they used to.
In early 2020, many insurance companies paid 100% of a patient’s bill if it was COVID-related, but that’s not happening anymore.
“Insurance companies now consider COVID to be a regular illness, a regular condition, a regular reason to go to the hospital,” Brousse said.
What can you do to try and prevent a bill like this? Brousse said there are actually ways to make it somewhat “disappear.”
First, make sure your insurance pays the correct amount. Mistakes do happen.
Second, file for financial assistance. Depending on your circumstances, the discounts can be anywhere from 5% to 100%.
Lastly, make small monthly payments to keep the account current and keep checking back in with the hospital’s billing department.
“As of spring 2022, it is expected that 95% of every insurance plan out there will no longer consider COVID to be special and cover it at 100%,” Brousse said.
While this patient didn’t have a choice but to go to the hospital, he hopes insurance companies and hospitals can be more understanding. Others in a similar situation have more options and aren’t surprised by a $4,000 bill.
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