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Coronavirus: Man receives $3,500 medical bill for test after returning to US from China

The Independent logo The Independent 25/02/2020 Danielle Zoellner
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A Miami man has received a nearly $3,500 medical bill after getting coronavirus tests following his trip to China.

Osmel Martinez Azcue returned from a work trip last month to China and discovered he was feeling flu-like symptoms. Worried about the coronavirus, the man decided to go to a Florida hospital to get tested, according to the Miami Herald.

Testing revealed Mr Azcue had the flu, not the coronavirus. But his limited health insurance left him with a bill of $3,270 two weeks after his test. He will be responsible for $1,400 of that bill.

"How can they expect normal citizens to contribute to eliminating the potential risk of person-to-person spread if hospitals are waiting to charge us $3,270 for a simple blood test and a nasal swab?" Mr Azcue told the newspaper.

Mr Azcue previously had insurance through the Affordable Care Act. He picked that insurance as he makes $55,000 through his job at a medical-device company, and it does not provide a health insurance plan.

Once he first purchased the plan, he was paying $278 per month. These premiums then shot up to $400 once his full salary kicked in, forcing the man to cancel the coverage and pay $180 per month for a limited plan through National General Insurance.

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This decision comes as the Trump administration rolled back the Affordable Care Act regulations in 2018 and allowed "junk plans" on the market.

These junk plans offer short-term, low-benefit coverage for people, but they also are not required to meet the law's standards for health coverage, meaning the plans could avoid covering pre-existing conditions or offering protections from large out-of-pocket expenses.

One problem people run into when shopping for insurance plans is the way these junk plans are advertised. Someone might think they have coverage for certain expenses only to discover later they don't.

Mr Azcue discovered that not only does he owe $1,400 out of pocket, but he also needs to provide his insurer with three years of medical records to prove that the flu he got didn't relate to a pre-existing condition. If for some reason the flu related to a pre-existing condition, then the insurer would no longer pay a portion of the man's bill.

Jackson Memorial Hospital, where Mr Azcue received his tests, told the Miami Herald more bills are on its way to the man. It is not clear what else he will have to pay for after getting tested for the coronavirus.

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