Consumer Alert on COVID-19 Fees Charged to Patients

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Source: Office of the California Attorney General

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today issued an alert warning consumers about some healthcare providers reportedly charging patients a COVID FEE when seeking care. A COVID FEE is an additional charge, purportedly for more frequent cleaning and disinfecting, and greater use of Personal Protective Equipment, also known as “PPE,” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medi-Cal: Those enrolled in Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal are not allowed to be charged a COVID FEE. If you have Medi-Cal or Denti-Cal, alert your doctor’s or dentist’s office that they may not charge a COVID FEE to Medi-Cal or Denti-Cal patients.

If you are being charged a COVID FEE please call the California Department of Health Care Services Medi-Cal Member and Provider Helpline at 1-800-541-5555 to report it or to ask questions about the fee.

Medicare: Those enrolled in Medicare may not be charged a COVID FEE. If you are being charged a COVID FEE please call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE to report it or ask questions about the fee.

Private Insurance: If you have private insurance, you have the right to ask your provider why you are being charged a COVID FEE and what the COVID FEE covers. You also have the right to ask your insurer if your provider can charge you the fee under your insurance plan rules. You should also alert the California Department of Managed Health Care at 1-888-466-2219 or visit their website at https://www.dmhc.ca.gov/fileacomplaint.aspx. You can also contact the California Department of Insurance at https://www.isurance.ca.gov/01-consumers/101-help/ or at 1-800-927-4357.

Tricare: Patients enrolled in Tricare may not be charged a COVID FEE at in-network providers. It may only be appropriate to charge a COVID FEE to a Tricare member when: (1) the patient does not inform the provider ahead of time that they have Tricare, and (2) the provider sends a written notice about a COVID FEE to the patient before an appointment. For more information please visit https://www.tricare.mil/ContactUs/ReportFraudAbuse.

We encourage you to take the following steps if you have already been charged a COVID FEE by your doctor or dentist:

  • Contact your health or dental insurance company and request a reimbursement.
  • If you are a Medi-Cal, Denti-Cal, Tricare or Medicare Dual-Eligible patient and you have been charged a COVID FEE, please file a complaint at ‪www.oag.ca.gov/report and report which healthcare provider charged you a COVID FEE, as well as the name of your dental or health insurance company.
 
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ChemicalSuperFreak Mar 02, 2021 06:29 PM
Consumer Alert on COVID-19 Fees Charged to Patients

I'm not a Trump fan, but he did push for disclosure on healthcare costs and we really need this. Being nickle-and-dimed is what these companies do well. In high school I got a job at a local hospital in the billing department doing data entry. What an eye opener: $20 for aspirin, $5 for a gauze pad. A simple surgical procedure would run over $3,000 in supplies alone. Then the hospital would bill for the stay, food, staff. Then the surgeon would bill separately for their time, though the medical group they belonged to. Those costs easily brought the final cost to about $10,000.

Obama/Biden and the AHCP accomplished nothing more than emboldening the healthcare industry and insurance companies to start jacking their prices and inventing all sorts of costs. We're about to experience all of this again with the new administration, which is why these COVID fees are becoming de rigueur. Imagine if the federal government mandated that all of us had to have Netflix and Disney+...do you think the prices would stay the same? Get ready to have your pockets picked.

Voice of Reason Mar 03, 2021 08:53 AM
Consumer Alert on COVID-19 Fees Charged to Patients

But how could that be CFM? Trump only does bad things and Obama/Biden only do good things, at least that's what the TV and the echo chambers I follow on social media tell me.

Seabird Mar 02, 2021 06:51 PM
Consumer Alert on COVID-19 Fees Charged to Patients

@Chemical, I am very familiar with how healthcare costs are billed, and it's a racket if there ever was one. I agree that the government needs to get on this. What you forget is personal responsibility on the part of the consumer: the patient. We NEED to remember that our doctors are hired by us. We need to advocate for ourselves medically and financially.

ChemicalSuperFreak Mar 02, 2021 06:56 PM
Consumer Alert on COVID-19 Fees Charged to Patients

Hi Seabird, thank you for that thoughtful reply. Yes, consumers need to be responsible, but there's a limit to where that power ends, often when you sign the forms during an emergency. You'll sign literally anything under duress. What we need is legislation that forces providers to present the costs upfront, and then let people choose. No consumer/patient can accomplish this, which is why we elect representatives on our behalf in the form of politicians. They are failing us.

Life in SoCal Mar 02, 2021 08:13 PM
Consumer Alert on COVID-19 Fees Charged to Patients

The last 2 times I went to the Johnson Family Dental, I was charged a $10 COVID fee.... they explained it as, to cover the costs associated with COVID protocols..... and I didn't see anything different from previous times except that the lobby was only open to 1 patient at a time

jak Mar 03, 2021 01:04 PM
Consumer Alert on COVID-19 Fees Charged to Patients

Superfreak, the ACA didn’t directly impose any new costs or fees. Sadly, it did mandate extra layers of complexity in the billing which makes it easy to hide charges that at one time would have been considered fraudulent. In addition, that complexity is extreme enough that most doctors can no longer understand the billing process well enough to do things the way that they used to. They now depend more than ever on services through their medical group and many of these groups manipulate the way exams, tests, and prescriptions get written up to “maximize profits”. I got into an argument with my doctor’s office about fraudulent bills last year. I know that doctor socially and when I described what was in my bill and why he said “wow, that’s insurance fraud “ when I showed him his own provider groups bill he was most displeased. My copay was waived and I believe he had my insurance initiate a clawback.

Don’t worry though. Single payer will be much better.

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