Better Solutions for Healthcare

NBC Houston: INVESTIGATES: Shocking bills after COVID-19 tests

By Amy Davis and Andrea Slaydon

January 8, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, health authorities are encouraging everyone to get tested repeatedly to make sure we are not unknowingly spreading the virus.

Now, hundreds of millions of tests later, Channel 2 Investigates discovered doctors gouging patients and insurance companies for tests that are supposed to be free.

Nasal swabs, mouth swabs, rapid tests, and PCRs: There’s more than one way to get tested for COVID-19.

“I paid $100 for me, I paid $100 for my daughter,” said Katie Hillborn.

Hillborn also provided her insurance card at the Clear Creek Emergency Room in League City, in hopes she would be reimbursed when her insurance company paid the claim for the COVID-19 tests for her and her daughter.

“I called ahead, I asked what item fee would be,” said Ruth Kurian.

Kurian thought she asked all the right questions before getting a drive-thru test at the River Oaks Emergency Room on South Shepherd in Houston. She and her husband paid $100 and provided a picture of their insurance card as asked.

“That’s the only reason I provided my insurance. I was looking to get my $100 back,” she explains.

But weeks later, both women felt sick when they opened their explanation of benefits.

“$3520 for me and $3520 for my daughter,” said Hillborn, referring to the amount Clear Creek Emergency Room billed her insurance company on the first claim it sent.

Kurian’s explanation of benefits showed the River Oaks Emergency Room charged her insurance company $8900 each for her and her husband.

Broken down, the claims were $4,200 for emergency service and another $4,700 for ancillary services totaling $17,861 for two drive-thru COVID-19 tests. The entire bill was paid in full by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“I was flabbergasted! I never set foot in the building. I spent maybe 5 minutes with a nurse through my car window,” said Kurian.

On top of the $3,250 Hillborn’s insurance was charged for herself and her daughter, there were two more claims for $3,700 each for the doctor’s services.

“Which I never saw a doctor while I was there,” Hillborn told Davis. “They said, ‘Well, you talked to a doctor over the phone when you got here that asked you questions.’”