Florida woman said she had no idea that her test for the coronavirus would cost her so much.
You wake up one day and your body aches, you start coughing and you can’t catch your breath. You just returned from abroad. It’s mid-March, and think you have the coronavirus.
So you do what you’re supposed to do. You reach out to your primary care provider. You’re told to get tested at a local hospital. So you get tested.
Then you get slapped with medical bills totaling more than $6,000.
Sounds like a bad dream, right?
A Volusia County woman shared medical bills with The Daytona Beach News-Journal that indicate that’s what happened to her after she received a test at AdventHealth DeLand.
The woman asked that her name not be used due to stigma attached to coronavirus. AdventHealth officials did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.
The woman said she had no idea that it would cost her so much to be tested. From everything she had read, the woman said she believed the test was supposed to be free. But the ER visit and array of unexplained tests she received resulted in a bill she's still trying to figure out how to pay, all while recovering from COVID-19.
When the 23-year-old DeLand woman returned on March 17 from Spain, she said she felt fine. She had been teaching English overseas but decided to return to the United States once coronavirus cases started surging in Europe and things began to shut down.
The day after she returned from Spain, she said she developed a fever and headache. She called her family physician on March 19 after her fever spiked, she developed a minor cough and began having chest irritation.
She was told to go to AdventHealth DeLand. This was before coronavirus testing had expanded across the state and the only options for testing were through the Florida Department of Health and local hospitals.
When she arrived, she said was immediately directed to an entrance specifically for people who thought they might have COVID-19. Once she was in the exam room, hospital staff conducted an array of tests, including for the flu and strep throat. She was also given a chest X-ray.
“They did tests that I didn’t ask for,” the woman said, explaining that she only went for the coronavirus test. “They didn’t ask me about them or if I wanted them. They just said they are going to do this, this and this. I should have said I didn’t want the other stuff. I just thought it was something that needed to be done.”
At no point did staff tell her how much it would cost or even that it would cost her anything.
“I assumed it would mostly be free because I heard coronavirus tests were free,” she said.
After her visit she was sent an initial bill for $4,356.28. She was charged for IV therapy, laboratory services and radiology services in addition to an emergency center and pharmacy fee. It’s unclear if she was actually charged for the coronavirus test because that was not itemized on her bill.
Three weeks later, she received an additional bill for $1,969 for ER physician services.
“My dad and I were really frustrated,” she said. “Disbelief as well that coronavirus testing is supposed to be free but it’s misleading to go to the hospital to get tested and no one really warns you about it or asks if you want tests that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
When The News-Journal asked AdventHealth why patients were being given tests they didn’t ask for and why patients weren’t told the cost of those tests in advance, spokesman Jeff Grainger asked for the patient's name, which The News-Journal provided to him with the woman’s consent. The newspaper made multiple unsuccessful attempts over the last two weeks to get additional answers from AdventHealth.
The woman said she and her father tried multiple times to reach someone at AdventHealth to ask about her bills.
“The customer service director named Mike from AdventHealth called me twice about trying to get us to pay the bill,” she said Wednesday. “He said the charge for the coronavirus test wasn’t on the bill even though all I asked for at the hospital was a coronavirus test, and I didn’t have a choice in the treatment I received.”
In total, she said she is required to pay $871 of the first bill and the entirety of the second bill, a total of $2,840. She said she had health insurance in Spain through her employer, but the policy is not valid in the United States.
“We are asking the hospital to review and remove the charges, which they have not done, since I went there only for the coronavirus test,” she said on Wednesday.
To top off her frustrations, when her coronavirus test came back three days after being tested, she was positive.
Then her 56-year-old mother and 20-year-old brother, whom she was living with along with her 64-year-old father, were tested at the Florida Department of Health office in Daytona Beach. Neither of them had to pay for their test and neither of them received additional testing.
“When the Department of Health conducts a test, it is part of a epidemiological investigation,” said Holly Smith, spokeswoman for the FDOH office in Volusia County. “This includes taking a history. However, it does not include additional testing or exams and there is no cost to the patient.”
The woman’s mother tested positive for the virus. Her brother tested negative, but they suspect he may have already had the virus while studying abroad in London. Her father was never tested for the virus.
Except for the bill from AdventHealth, the woman feels she is lucky. She was able to stay home for the entirety of her illness. Her fever only lasted 24 hours. By 12 days after being tested she only had a cough and slight chest irritation that was getting better each day.
“I feel lucky I suppose,” she said. “It’s such a new virus and they don’t know why it affects some people more than others.”
But her mother had worse symptoms. She had a low fever and mild cough for four days and fatigue. All of her symptoms have lasted longer than that of her daughters.
“I’m more worried for my mom since she tested positive, and I feel better now,” she said earlier this month. “Mostly, I’m just worried for my parents.”
Her warning to others is to check about testing cost on the front end.
“I appreciate how thorough they were, but I was not anticipating how much it was going to cost.”
This story originally published to news-journalonline.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.