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A $52k ‘surprise’ medical bill

You read that right. When a 60-year old COVID-19 patient’s family agreed to have her airlifted to a hospital 20 miles away, they were told it was “life or death.”

What they weren’t told was that the bill for the air ambulance ride would be more than $52,000.

The woman was treated in the hospital for six weeks before continuing her recovery at home. Shortly after her return, she received the $52,112 bill for the helicopter trip.

The woman’s health insurer initially was to pay $7,539 of the total bill before agreeing to cover the full amount, according to the New York Times.

Efforts in Congress last year to halt these types of ‘surprise’ medical bills stalled. Before Congress could resume negotiations, the coronavirus pandemic began. To address the potential financial burden of COVID-19, Congress passed relief packages that provided funding for hospitals and providers, and reimbursements for hospitals treating uninsured COVID-19 patients.

Many insurers also waived out-of-pocket COVID-19 treatment costs for their members.

However, gaps still remained. For instance, Lynne Lerner, a COVID-19 patient in California, was stuck with two bills for $1,471 from the Los Angeles Fire Department for ambulances that took her and her husband from their house to a hospital one mile away.

“They took us around the corner,” Lerner said in the article. “I could have walked.” Lerner’s insurance covered most of the expense, but she was still left with $294 bill for a short ambulance trip.

When Alice Navarro spent 10 days at a hospital with COVID-19, she saw a number of doctors who were not part of her health insurance network. This resulted in $4,000 in ‘surprise’ charges for the consultation of doctors she didn’t choose.

What ‘surprise’ medical bills have you received related to COVID-19? Share your story.