Woman goes to hospital, billed thousands for services supposed to be free

Updated: May. 27, 2020 at 4:56 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte woman says she and her daughter were billed thousands for getting a coronavirus test.

DeShawna Manley said she called WBTV for help after trying to get the bill reduced on her own – but with no luck.

Under the federal CARES Act, coronavirus tests are mandated to be free. So Manley says she was shocked when she received a bill for nearly $2,500.

“I just don’t know if other people have had this happen to them and they’re getting the bill, and if they can pay it they are just paying it and not questioning it,” said Manley.

Manley said she beat coronavirus, but the bills nearly buried her.

On April 1, she and her daughter went to the emergency room at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia. Both tested negative for the flu, so doctors tested them for coronavirus.

Manley’s daughter tested negative, but she tested positive.

“I had a fever that wouldn’t break,” she recalled. "I had been coughing since about three days before that.”

The pain from the virus went away in a few weeks, only to be replaced by shock after receiving the bill from Gastonia Physician Services, a contracted emergency medical partner of CaroMont Regional Medical Center.

“I knew that, according to the CARES Act, I shouldn’t be billed for any screening leading up to coronavirus testing, testing for coronavirus, or treatment,” Manley said.

Manley says her insurance paid for the hospital portion, which she says was coded correctly as coronavirus testing.

“But the Gastonia Physician Services coded their bill as cough for my daughter and cough, fever and shortness of breath for me.”

That billing translated into just under $2,500 for Manley and her daughter. She received two bills from Gastonia Physician Services totaling $2,493.

Manley says she made repeated calls to Gastonia Physician Services trying to get clarification, but nothing was being resolved.

Frustrated, she called WBTV for help.

“I can’t get a response from these people and somehow the news seems to be able to get people to respond when they don’t otherwise, so that’s why I reached out,” she explained.

WBTV’s Dee Dee Gatton made several calls and left messages for Gastonia Physician Services.

Eventually, they provided this statement indicating:

"As a provider of emergency medicine services, we are committed to ensuring all patients receive the best medical care and patient service experience possible. In general, the billing process for emergency medicine services can be complex due to the varying requirements of the insurance companies, and the COVID-19 pandemic has added an additional obligation for healthcare providers and insurance carriers to navigate new federal billing requirements.

“While there are insurance carrier responsibilities involved, we understood it was important to resolve this matter for Ms. Manley as soon as possible. We have spoken with her and will work with her insurance company to correct this issue.”

Manley says Gastonia Physician Services indicated her balance will be reduced to zero.

“I don’t think they would have called me if you hadn’t started poking around,” said Manley. “I feel like you heard me out, and then you took action very quickly. I don’t think I would have gotten the same response had I not involved WBTV.”

To find out more about the CARES Act legislation, you can click here.

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