NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) — A Middle Tennessee man now owes thousands of dollars after being treated for COVID-19 at a local hospital, News4 Investigates has found.
What News4 Investigates uncovered will have you re-checking your insurance policy.
The man asks why the COVID-19 relief funds are not helping him with his bills.
“I was diagnosed on a Wednesday and on Saturday morning I woke up and couldn’t breathe,” said a former COVID patient.
Because the man works for a hospital in Middle Tennessee, he asked us not to identify him. He now owes more than $4,000 after being treated for COVID at Williamson Medical Center.
“I didn’t pay him. It’s been 30 days and now I’m nervous about what’s going to happen next,” the patient said.
Calls from collection agencies have been coming in for months with multiple bills reminding him of his balance.
But what he wants to know is why he owes so much if hospitals are still receiving COVID relief funds, money he thought was going to help pay his bill.
“What’s the point if it’s not for that?” asked the patient.
News4 Investigates began looking into it and found that while hospitals like Williamson Medical Center were receiving millions of dollars, it wasn’t to cover the cost of patient care.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, these funds were created to help health care providers.
For example, providers can use these funds for salaries, personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and other expenses related to COVID-19 prevention, preparedness, or response.
The patient told News4 he believed the funds were to help cover patient costs.
“I felt like it was to cover things like that,” the patient said when asked if he expected to pay anything out of pocket.
A health care advocate told News4 that patients should expect to pay more out of pocket for COVID-19 care.
“Unfortunately, they should be expected,” said Martine Brousse, a medical billing specialist who works for AdvimedPro.
Brousse said insurance companies are no longer releasing people like they used to.
In early 2020, many insurance companies paid 100% of a patient’s bill if it was COVID-related, but that no longer happens.
“Insurance companies now see COVID as a regular illness, a regular condition, a regular reason to go to the hospital,” Brousse said.
What can you do to try to prevent a bill like this? Brousse said there are actually ways to make it “disappear” somewhat.
First, make sure your insurance paid the correct amount. Mistakes happen.
Second, apply for financial aid. Discounts can range from 5% to 100% depending on your situation.
Finally, make small monthly payments to keep the account current and check back regularly with the hospital billing department.
“From spring 2022, it is expected that 95% of every insurance plan will no longer consider COVID special and cover it 100%,” Brousse said.
Although this patient had no choice but to go to the hospital, he hopes that insurance companies and hospitals can be more understanding so that others in a similar situation have more options and don’t be surprised by a $4,000 bill.