Woman billed for COVID-19 test until WBTV starts asking questions

Woman billed for COVID-19 test until WBTV starts asking questions

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A WBTV viewer says she was billed for a COVID-19 test that she thought was free.

After the WBTV Investigates team started asking questions, the bill was reduced, but a patient advocate says it should still probably be free.

Carmela Bautista said she had a fever and other symptoms, and after she had a consultation with her primary care doctor at Tryon Medical Partners, she got an appointment for a test at their Matthews Satellite office.

Luckily, the test was negative, but the bill was expensive.

The total bill was $262, and after insurance, she still owed $172.16

Bautista said her insurance company told her another bill was on the way for $114 for the initial doctor’s visit.

“If you just have mild symptoms you would just probably stay home and rest until its over,” Bautista said.

A new federal law makes testing free for most patients as long as their insurance company accepts federal funding for it.

So, WBTV asked why Bautista would be charged.

“This is all really confusing, and if you get tested and if you receive a bill, don’t pay it,” Caitlin Donovan with the National Patient Advocate Foundation said.

Donovan says healthcare providers and insurers are still working out the specifics of billing for COVID-19 testing but said she wouldn’t be surprised if it came down to a mistake.

“We estimate about half of bills have errors in them, I can only imagine that will go up,” Donovan said.

According to a spokesperson for Tryon Medical Partners, Bautista’s bills did come about from a billing error.

Bautista told WBTV that the problem was being fixed and that she would still receive one smaller bill for the doctor’s visit.

A statement from Tryon Medical Partners read: “The doctor’s evaluation to determine whether COVID-19 testing is appropriate is not free and billed as a regular evaluation. This policy is dictated by payer guidelines from the insurance company.”

Donovan says patients shouldn’t stop there in case those visits really are covered.

“She should absolutely have more questions about it. I would keep pushing on this,” Donovan said.

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