NPR: ER Visit For COVID-19 Symptoms Stuck Man With A $3,278 Bill
By Phil Galewitz
May 26, 2020
From late March into April, Timothy Regan had severe coughing fits several times a day that often left him out of breath. He had a periodic low-grade fever too.
Wondering if he had COVID-19, Regan called a nurse hotline run by Denver Health, a large public health system in his city. A nurse listened to him describe his symptoms and told him to immediately go to the hospital system’s urgent care facility.
When he arrived at Denver Health — where the emergency room and urgent care facility sit side by side at its main location downtown — a nurse directed him to the ER after he noted chest pain as one of his symptoms.
Regan was seen quickly and given a chest X-ray and electrocardiogram, known as an EKG, to check his lungs and heart. Both were normal.
A doctor prescribed an inhaler to help his breathing and told him he might have bronchitis. The doctor advised that he had to presume he had COVID-19 and must quarantine at home for two weeks.
At the time, on April 3, Denver Health reserved COVID-19 tests for sicker patients. Two hours after arriving at the hospital, Regan was back home. His longest wait was for his inhaler prescription to be filled.
Regan wasn’t concerned about just his own health. His wife, Elissa, who is expecting their second child in August, and their 1-year-old son, Finn, also felt sick with symptoms like those of COVID-19 in April. “Nothing terrible but enough to make me worry,” he said.
Regan, who is an estimator for a construction firm, worked from home throughout his sickness — including while quarantined. (Construction in Colorado and many states has been considered an essential business and has continued to operate.) Regan said he was worried about taking a day off and losing his job.
“I was thinking I had to make all the money I could in case we all had to be hospitalized,” he said. “All I could do was keep working in hopes that everything would be OK.”
Within a couple of weeks, the whole family indeed was OK. “We got lucky,” Elissa said.
Then the bill came.
The patient: Timothy Regan, 40,an estimator for a construction company. The family has health insurance through Elissa’s job at a nonprofit in Denver.
Total bill: Denver Health billed Regan $3,278 for the ER visit. His insurer paid $1,042, leaving him with $2,236 to pay based on his $3,500 in-network deductible. The biggest part of the bill was the $2,921 general ER fee…