Surprise medical billing on the rise amid coronavirus pandemic

5.21.20

A 61-year-old Texas woman with a cough and trouble breathing went to the hospital in mid-March. Whether she would’ve tested positive for coronavirus, we may never know – because tests have been in short supply, doctors instead ran her through a battery of screenings and sent her home to recover.

Her bill? More than $1,440.

While coronavirus tests are supposed to be covered by insurance companies, patients are still being left with surprise medical bills. In the case of Pamela Shaw, the Texas Tribune reported that her insurer, UnitedHealthcare, may reprocess her claims and retroactively waive her costs.

But it’s not just coronavirus, or just Texas.

More than half of Americans have received a surprise medical bill they expected to be covered by their health insurance, according to a 2018 survey by the nonpartisan research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.

Every day, about 10,000 Americans are hit with surprise medical bills after their health insurance company declares their care “out-of-network,” according to Families USA.

With strain on our health care system because of COVID-19, we only expect this will get worse.

Surprise medical bills have already thrown millions of Americans into financial crisis when they are at their most vulnerable. It’s time to put an end to surprise medical billing and to hold insurers accountable, and Congress has an opportunity to act now. Please contact your members of Congress by sending a letter today.