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Some dealing with "surprise" COVID-19 testing bills

Major companies now offering free testing for coronavirus
Posted at 5:09 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 19:09:42-05

Some Americans have been dealing with surprise COVID-19-related bills.

Despite mandates from Congress stating coronavirus-related bills should be covered by insurance companies, many Americans have been paying the price.

People across the country wait in line for a COVID-19 test, and many are never charged. But for some, the bills have come as an unwelcomed surprise.

"It was shocking, right," said Laurie Delgatto-Whitten.

In May, Delgatto-Whitten received a bill for more than $3,000 for a single coronavirus test, even though federal guidelines stated it should have been free.

"I felt like they were ripping people off and they had the perfect way of doing it," she said.

Delgatto-Whitten quickly learned that she'd be the only one advocating to fix the mistake. She spent hours on the phone with the hospital and her insurance company — not just for herself, but for the thousands of other Americans who are being tested every day.

"I was always the one taking the lead to move it forward," she said. "The insurance company wans’t contacting me back, the insurance company wasn’t calling me back. Any follow up I had to do."

And healthcare advocates worry stories like Delgatto-Whitten's will keep people from testing, even as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide.

"If we want people to get tested and we’re saying it’s free, it has to be free," said healthcare advocate Michelle Johnson. "Speak up, the only way wrongs can be righted is if we hold people to accountability."

Nearly eight months after first receiving that bill, Delgatto-Whitten is finally free of any financial obligations. She even went so far as to report the issue to the Texas Attorney General where she lives, where a dozens of similar problems are being investigated.

"It really was just about what’s just and right, at times I felt like I was hitting my head against the wall," she said. "Nobody seemed to care that this was happening."