Covid Killed His Father Then Came $1 Million in Medical Bills

NY Times
Article by Sarah Kliff


One coronavirus survivor manages her medical bills in color-coded folders: green, red and tan for different types of documents. A man whose father died of the virus last fall uses an Excel spreadsheet to organize the outstanding debts. It has 457 rows, one for each of his father’s bills, totaling over $1 million.


These are people who are facing the financial version of long-haul Covid: They’ve found their lives and finances upended by medical bills resulting from a bout with the virus.Their desks and coffee tables have stacks of billing documents. They are fluent in the jargon of coronavirus medical coding, after hundreds of hours of phone calls discussing the charges with hospitals, doctors and insurers.“People think there is some relief program for medical bills for coronavirus patients,” said Jennifer Miller, a psychologist near Milwaukee who is working with a lawyer to challenge.


Americans with other serious illnesses regularly face exorbitant and confusing bills after treatment, but things were supposed to be different for coronavirus patients. Many large health plans wrote special rules, waiving co-payments and deductibles for coronavirus hospitalizations. When doctors and hospitals accepted bailout funds, Congress barred them from “balance-billing” patients — the practice of seeking additional payment beyond what the insurer has paid.
  Interviews with more than a dozen patients suggest those efforts have fallen short. Some with private insurance are bearing the costs of their coronavirus treatments, and the bills can stretch into the tens of thousands of dollars.

 

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