An Irish American public school teacher went to the ER with coronavirus symptoms and was charged $10,000 for the visit — despite never being tested for the virus.
On March 2, Erin McCarthy went to the NYU Langone Health emergency room in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, after suffering from symptoms of fever, headaches, and tightness in her chest, Business Insider reported. She had recently traveled to Italy.
The hospital, which would not administer the coronavirus test because McCarthy did not have immune issues and is not elderly, later handed her a medical bill of $10.382.96 for the six-hour visit.
Fortunately, McCarthy, who later tested negative for COVID-19, has insurance and will only have to pay $75 out of pocket, but her experience does raise questions of how the uninsured will be able to afford care and treatment for COVID-19.
Since McCarthy’s visit to the ER, Congress has passed legislation making it free to get tested for the virus. However, some patients could still face high medical bills for treatment.
Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a directive ordering health insurers to waive all costs related to the coronavirus for emergency-room, urgent-care, and doctor visits.
"We can't let cost be a barrier to access to COVID-19 testing for any New Yorker," he tweeted.
And on March 10, Vice President Mike Pence announced that major insurance companies, including Anthem, Cigna, Humana, and Aetna, would waive copays for testing and cover the cost of treatment of COVID-19 for Americans nationwide.
However, the uninsured and those on Medicare and Medicaid may still be forced to pay, and potentially high medical bills could discourage many people from seeking care.
Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University, told The New York Times: “The problem is we have reams and reams of evidence that if people know they face hundreds or thousands of dollars in bills, they’ll hesitate, they’ll wait and see.”