Mr Osmel Martinez Azcue, an American citizen who visited Wuhan for work in January developed flu-like symptoms after he came home, and went to a hospital to get tested for the coronavirus as a precaution.
Fortunately, Mr Azcue only had the regular flu. However, he received the shock of his life nearly two weeks later when he was informed by his insurance company that they had gotten a bill for US$3,270 just for the test.
Mr Azcue’s health insurance is on a limited plan, which is why he still has to pay US $1,400 out-of-pocket, but only if he submits three years worth of medical records to his insurance company (National General Insurance) showing that the flu for which he tested positive when he returned from China is unrelated to any preexisting conditions.
If the insurance company deems the evidence to be insufficient, he will have to pay the full hospital bill for the test.
News of Mr Azcue’s expensive testing fee sounded an alarm with many health workers, due to fears that people who believe they may be infected would be hesitant to come forward for testing and treatment due to their limited financial abilities.
“How can they expect normal citizens to contribute to eliminating the potential risk of person-to-person spread if hospitals are waiting to charge us $3,270 for a simple blood test and a nasal swab?”-Mr Azcue, interview with Miami Herald
The Trump Administration has progressively rolled back the Affordable Care Act, making way for so-called “junk plans” such as the one Mr Azcue has. Such plans offer cheaper premiums but are not mandated to follow the law’s standards for health coverage, meaning patients could still rack up significant out-of-pocket expenses.
Georgetown University professor and co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms Sabrina Corletta was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying, “When someone has flu-like symptoms, you want them to to seek medical care. If they have one of these junk plans and they know they might be on the hook for more than they can afford to seek that care, a lot of them just won’t, and that is a public health concern.”