At the height of the pandemic during lockdowns, when everyone was holed up at home, Travis Warner's company got busier than ever. He and his team were visiting different homes, every single day to install internet and video systems for the sudden surge in remote working culture. It was only a matter of time that an employee tested positive.
Warner and his wife did a little hunt of their own before undergoing the Covid test and drove 30 minutes from their Dallas home to an emergency room in Texas. Wherein they received PCR diagnostic test and the rapid antigen test. Fortunately, all the tests came negative and life would have been back on the track, but for the medical bill.
The bill came out to a whopping and ridiculous $54,384. The insane amount of charge includes $54,000 for the PCR test and the balance for the antigen test and ER facility fee.
When a test costs more than a Tesla
Travis Warner, 36, is a self-employed citizen and bought his health plan from Molina Healthcare. The one charging the money is SignatureCare Emergency Center in Lewsiville, one of the many free-standing ERs the company owns across Texas.
The Warners, much like everybody else aware of the whopping bill, had similar questions. Is that even legal for two Covid tests? "Yes, it is perfectly legal. For coronavirus tests—like much else in American health care---there is no cap to what providers can charge," said Loren Adler, associate director of the USC—Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, reported NPR. Because of the pandemic, lawmakers passed a legislation that made it mandatory for insurers to pay for Covid tests without any cost sharing for the patients. The service provider in question, was out of network for Warner's health insurance plan.
Not the first insane bill
The incident involving Warner has not been the first case of absurd, arbitrary prices being charged for Covid-19 test. The policy of insurers paying the complete sum has given healthcare providers a leeway to charge arbitrary and unjustified amounts in the name of Covid tests. Since the patients aren't billed, they most likely won't complain either.
But Warner was still uncomfortable with the idea and the amount. His wife, for the same tests, conducted on the same day was charged $2000. A sum that her insurance company settled for $1000. When pursued relentlessly, the service provider, Molina Healthcare put the case down to a billing error. But there's no denying the case of overpayment, fraud, arbitrary pricing which eventually is going to result in higher premiums.
As per a report by Kaisler Family Foundation, the test prices of Covid spanned from $20 to $1,419, out of which half of tests cost less than $200. While the insurance company foots the bill, it is the patient that eventually pays the price.