Got coronavirus? You may get a surprise medical bill, too

April 22, 2020 / By Lisa Riordan Seville and Andrew W. Lehren

Christopher Hoffman had the telltale symptoms: a dry cough, trouble breathing and a missing sense of smell. In early March, before the coronavirus shut the country down, the 25-year-old New Yorker went to urgent care, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

“Because I didn’t have a fever, they didn’t think to test me for COVID-19,” Hoffman said. A week later, he was in the hospital on an IV.

He recovered, but his battle with what he is certain was COVID-19 left him with more than $3,800 in out-of-pocket expenses and no clue exactly how much his insurer will cover — a common refrain in the age of the coronavirus.

“I’m going to have to duke it out with my insurance company,” said Hoffman, who was never formally diagnosed with the disease and got sick before many measures to cut the cost of catching it were in effect.

The government and insurance companies have vowed to pick up much of the tab for coronavirus testing and treatment. But insurance experts, doctors and health care economists told NBC News that because of the fragmented nature of the U.S. health care system, they’re already seeing holes in this impromptu safety net.


Chris J. Stewart

Chris currently serves as President and CEO of Surgio Health. Chris has close to 20 years of healthcare management experience, with an infinity to improve healthcare delivery through the development and implementation of innovative solutions that result in improved efficiencies, reduction of unnecessary financial & clinical variation, and help achieve better patient outcomes. Previously, Chris was assistant vice president and business unit leader for HPG/HCA. He has presented at numerous healthcare forums on topics that include disruptive innovation, physician engagement, shifting reimbursement models, cost per clinical episode and the future of supply chain delivery.

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