Beware of insurance bills for COVID-19 tests and treatment

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) If you've been tested or treated for COVID-19 -- check your bills. Our Cat Viglienzoni has been looking into some charges that should have been covered, but are going out to patients.

WCAX photographer Shelly Holt Allen tested positive for the coronavirus last month and recently got a bill in the mail that set off a red flag. It comes after state officials have repeatedly said patients wouldn't get billed for COVID-19 treatment.

$162.90 -- that's what Cigna told Shelly she owed for her UVM Medical Center ER visit on March 25 where she tested positive for COVID-19. But according to the state's directives to insurers back in March -- and also earlier this month -- she shouldn't have gotten any bill at all.

When she called Cigna to ask why, she was told it was likely a mistake."I do apologize that you're seeing a patient responsibility come through there. With all the claims and different billing policies we've been putting out, it's been a bit hit or miss with our claims," said the Cigna representative.

Shelly Holt Allen: So as a COVID patient, I should have zero dollars I should have to pay?
Cigna representative: Correct.

Vermont Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak confirmed to us Tuesday that testing and treatment for the coronavirus should be covered by fully-funded health insurance plans like the ones you'd get on the exchange or from large group employers. That's because the state wants to make sure there aren't any financial barriers to Vermonters seeking treatment for the virus. So, if you're charged for COVID-related care, don't pull out your pocketbook.

"if you get a bill for testing or if you get a bill for treatment, you should reach out to our department," Pieciak said.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: So if someone gets a bill for COVID testing, they shouldn't just write a check and send it.
Michael Pieciak: Yeah, absolutely not. Come to our department and check in first.

Pieciak says DFR representatives can walk you through whether the charge should be there and talk to your insurer if there's an issue. He says bills like the one Shelly got are likely a misunderstanding, since insurers are also navigating new territory with COVID-19 too. "They're trying to implement things, policy initiatives, that we are telling them to on the fly, and they don't always catch every single item," he said.

If you have questions about, or problems with your health insurer, contact DFR Consumer Services at 800-964-1784 or dfr.insuranceinfo@vermont.gov.