'COVID' fee showing up on medical bills across the country

Healthcare providers across the U.S. are adding "COVID" fees to patient bills to deal with their financial difficulties linked to the pandemic, according to The New York Times. 

This new fee has been tacked on to patient bills to help providers offset pandemic expenses ranging from  acquiring protective gear for staff  to sanitizing equipment more often.

The Times found that the new fees are most prevalent in dental offices and assisted living facilities. Dental offices have lost billions due to the suspension of nonurgent dental care, and assisted living facilities have been forced to admit fewer residents to prevent the spread of the disease.

But the charges soon may be coming to more physician offices, according to The Times. In October, the American Medical Association lobbied CMS to begin reimbursing a billing code that covers increased protective gear costs.

To better understand the new fee, The Times analyzed several patient bills.

In one instance, Michael Hambley's 87-year-old mother received a bill from her assisted living facility with a one-time $900 fee for masks, cleaning supplies and meal delivery.

Another bill for Jennifer Koeckhoven's mother had a $60 personal protective equipment charge added to it, which was not covered by insurance. 

In a third instance, Carrie McGurk, a retired lawyer in Boca Raton, Fla., received a $15 charge tacked onto her dental cleaning bill. She said she was not informed of the fee in advance and only saw it after asking for an itemized bill.

"When I was putting it away in my file, I saw 'COVID charge,' and thought, 'Jeez, you could have at least told me,'" Ms. McGurk told The Times.

Overall, The Times said COVID fees from dentist offices ranged from $12 to $45, and insurance companies typically paid $7 to $10 of the charge. 

Read the full report here


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