Health

Texas woman was charged $6,408 for a coronavirus test at an emergency room

Two friends in Texas received two drastically different bills when they were tested for the novel coronavirus. 

Pamela LeBlanc and Jimmy Harvey were about to go camping and kayaking along the Texas east coast with three friends and wanted some peace of mind.

Both went to get drive-through tests at Austin Emergency Center in Austin and, luckily, both tested negative.

While Harvey was charged $199, and paid in cash, LeBlanc – who paid with her private insurance – was billed $6,408, reported The New York Times. 

Pamela LeBlanc (pictured) and Jimmy Harvey, from Austin, Texas, were tested for the coronavirus at Austin Emergency Room

Harvey (pictured) paid in cash and was charged $199 while LeBlanc, who paid with insurance, was charged $6,408

Pamela LeBlanc (left) and Jimmy Harvey (right), from Austin, Texas, were tested for the coronavirus at Austin Emergency Room. Harvey paid in cash and was charged $199 while LeBlanc, who paid with insurance, was charged $6,408

UnitedHealthcare claims it used the wrong code, suggesting LeBlanc had had her blood drawn for different test. Pictured: LeBlanc, left, with Chris LeBlanc

UnitedHealthcare claims it used the wrong code, suggesting LeBlanc had had her blood drawn for different test. Pictured: LeBlanc, left, with Chris LeBlanc

Harvey has health insurance, but told The Times he felt like it would be a ‘hassle’ to use it to cover the cost of a coronavirus test. 

After he was given the nasal swab, he paid with two $100 bills and went back home to await his results. 

LeBlanc, on the other hand, received the $6,000-plus bill, mostly with charges from a third party called Genesis Laboratory, which ran her actual test. 

The provider sent her an explanation-of-benefit statements indicating she need to pay more than $1,000 out of pocket.

‘I assumed, like an idiot, it would be cheaper to use my insurance than pay cash right there,’ LeBlanc told the newspaper. 

‘This is 32 times the cost of what my friend paid for the exact same thing.’ 

The American government does not regulate health care prices, which allows for price discrepancies.

In March, a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that hospitalized coronavirus patients who suffer complications could be looking at a nearly $20,300 tab even when figuring for insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs. 

However, someone admitted to the hospital who doesn’t suffer complications could have to pay nearly $10,000.  

Experts have warned Americans to be aware of surprise billing.

For example, one may go to a hospital for testing or treatment, which is in-network, but they see provider who is out-of-network.   

This can lead to balance billing, which occurs when a healthcare provider bills a patient for the difference between the total cost of services and the amount the insurance pays.

And a 2015 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that large insurers and small insurers can charge different prices for the same procedure depending on how many members they have.

After LeBlanc learned from Harvey that he had paid less than $200, she immediately called her insurance company, UnitedHealthcare. 

The provider was able to get the bill down for $1,128, but said she would have to pay $928 of that. 

A second call got the charges dropped to $199. She then shared her story with local TV station KXAN.

LeBlanc told them she learned she had been charged for a Legionnaires disease test, a human herpesvirus 6 test, a blood culture for infection,and an ER visit – but she never had any blood drawn.

UnitedHealthcare began investigating and later confirmed that it had used the wrong code, charging LeBlanc for blood draws she didn’t undergo.

After the error was corrected, LeBlanc was told she didn’t have to pay anything for the test or visit.

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