Better Solutions for Healthcare

CBS: Battling COVID is just the start for many patients: Their hospital bills can be staggering


February 25, 2021

Jeff Sherman spent 11 days in the hospital fighting COVID-19.”I was on oxygen the entire time, they of course charged for that,” the Huntington Beach, California resident told CBS Los Angeles. “I was on high flow oxygen two-thirds of that time, and they charge an extra rate for that, so the total bill was $110,000.”The six-page long itemized bill ranges from $3,400 a day for his ICU bed to nearly $4,500 for a dose of Remdesivir.And then there are the charges that surprised him the most, like $22 a day for a single melatonin to help him sleep.

Sherman has insurance but like many Americans, he has a high deductible. He believes almost all of it will be covered by worker’s compensation, because he contracted the virus on the job. But Karen Pollitz, of the Kaiser Family Foundation, says many Californians aren’t so lucky.

“Resources are limited, let’s just start with that,” she said.

The federal CARES Act did establish a provider relief fund worth more than $150 billion. But it’s only for people who are uninsured.

And while some private insurers have opted to waive deductibles and co-pays for treatment associated with COVID, there’s no state or federal law requiring them to. That means it’s up to consumers to advocate for themselves.

“You can ask, first of all, your insurance company, ‘Are you sure that’s all you can pay for this?'” Pollitz said. “You can go back and ask the doctor or the hospital if they will forgive some of the bill or can you pay it in installments.”

Californians do have protections, though, when it comes to balance billing.

“If you go to an in-network provider for your care, and you get a bill from an out-of-network provider that you didn’t consent to or did not know about, you should not see that bill. That is banned in California,” says Rachel Lynn Gish of Health Access California…