Testing and vaccination for the coronavirus is free thanks to laws passed last year. Treatment isn’t, however, and may be about to get more expensive. Here are some COVID-19 costs you could face, what insurers will pay for and how to deal with medical bills.
What’s covered under the law: COVID-19 tests and vaccinations are free for everyone, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act.
Private insurers cannot bill for vaccinations and generally aren’t supposed to bill for a COVID-19 test. The same holds true if you’re on Medicare or Medicaid. (There are some exceptions for testing, but vaccination is completely free.)
If you don’t have insurance, the law provides funds to cover testing and vaccination costs for providers so they shouldn’t bill you.
Waivers also help but may not last: During the pandemic, many private insurers have voluntarily waived cost-sharing for COVID-19-related treatments, including copays, payments toward deductible and coinsurance (what you pay after the deductible). But that could change soon. The national public health emergency period ends April 21, though it may be extended by 90 days given we’re not out of the woods yet. Insurers could resume normal cost-sharing when the emergency period ends.
Dealing with medical bills: Ask for an itemized bill for COVID-19 treatments. This will help you spot errors like duplicate bill codes. Compare the charges with your explanation of benefits to see if they are covered.
Ask for a payment plan. Talk to your health care provider about setting up a plan to pay over time.
Get help. If you can, hire a medical billing advocate to negotiate complicated bills for you or seek claims assistance from professionals via Claims.org.
If you have complaints about COVID-19 bills, contact the Department of Health and Human Services hotline at 800-HHS-TIPS or tips.hhs.gov. You can also file a complaint with your state attorney general or insurance commissioner.
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