After blindsiding patients with bills for COVID-19 exams that almost all assumed can be free, the pressing care chain CityMD stated it’s now waiving balances and issuing refunds.
CityMD started sending the bills out final summer time, in some instances for exams that had been administered on the top of the pandemic in 2020. As Gothamist first reported, the corporate stated on the time that the bills had been arriving late as a result of it had tried to work with patients’ insurers to get reimbursed for the fees first. However in a put up on its web site final month, CityMD reversed course and stated it will cease billing patients — for now.
“After continued coordination with insurance carriers and review of related guidance, CityMD is recalling COVID-19 testing-related bills and removing any related balance from patient accounts,” the discover stated.
However CityMD added that after the federal public well being emergency round COVID-19 ends, it may resume charging patients for COVID-19 exams. The secretary of the U.S. Division of Well being and Human Companies has renewed the general public well being emergency repeatedly because it was put in place in early 2020. The newest renewal got here final week, and each extends the emergency interval by 90 days. The HHS has pledged to give states 60 days discover if it ever plans to not renew the order.
CityMD stated within the discover that it had contacted patients to inform them that they had been not accountable for the fees. However Manhattanite Helene Purcell stated she didn’t discover out her steadiness had been waived till she received a letter from the New York lawyer basic’s workplace this week.
Purcell had filed a criticism with the lawyer basic’s workplace in October, after receiving a $208 invoice from CityMD for a COVID take a look at she obtained in December 2020. Within the criticism, she referenced Gothamist’s story on the problem, exhibiting she was not alone.
“I was furious at the fact that we were told one thing and then, behind closed doors, they were like, ‘Oh no, actually you weren’t listening. This is not free to you,’” Purcell stated.
One of many first actions the federal authorities took in response to COVID-19 in spring 2020 was to make testing free to patients — however that got here with some caveats. Federal legislation requires insurers to cowl the total price of a take a look at so long as the general public well being emergency across the pandemic is in place.
Nevertheless it has been much less clear what recourse well being care suppliers have if an insurance coverage firm fails to do this. In CityMD’s case, it appears some well being insurers declined to pay the pressing care chain’s fees for an “office visit” as well as to the take a look at itself.
Some patients have balked on the fees from CityMD, calling them a “scam.” However well being coverage consultants who’ve spoken to Gothamist about this concern have stated that federal legislation largely positioned the onus on insurers to stop patients from getting charged.
Gothamist started reaching out to the HHS in September 2022 to acquire some readability on the problem and discover out what steerage the company had distributed to well being care suppliers and insurers. A spokesperson, Jorge Silva, initially stated he was working down a response – however then went silent. After posing the query once more this week, Gothamist discovered that Silva had left the company and began over with a brand new spokesperson, Ilse Zuniga, who has but to reply.
A number of folks affected by the CityMD fees instructed Gothamist final yr that they had been concerned in an investigation into the pressing care chain by the New York lawyer basic’s workplace. However the lawyer basic’s workplace has not confirmed that it’s trying into the problem.