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Billed Wrongly For A Covid-19 Test? The Kansas Insurance Department Wants To Know

Coronavirus testing materials like this kit imported by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are in high demand. Still, experts warn nursing homes and other buyers to vet suppliers before buying.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen
Kansas News Service
Coronavirus testing materials.

COVID-19 testing typically should be free, but health consumers often don't know the rules.

After a state employee received a coronavirus test and got charged a facility fee not allowed under federal rules, the insurance department put out a consumer alert.

It was largely prompted by the slew of news stories across the country about patients being billed for COVID-19 tests and related services that should be covered without having to pony up for copays, coinsurance or deductibles.

More than 200,000 Kansans have been tested for COVID-19 so far. The Kansas Insurance Department wants to make sure bills for all those tests are handled correctly.

And if you get billed for something you shouldn’t have to pay, the agency wants to know.

“We would like to be able to track if this is an issue,” commissioner Vicki Schmidt said, “because in some other states it has really become an issue.”

This story is part of our series, Bills of Health. Do you have a medical bill from Kansas that you want to share with a reporter? Email celia@kcur.org.

On the surface, the rules look easy. Congress passed a law in March that should make coronavirus testing free for most folks. No cost-sharing. No forking over money for things related to the test, like visiting your clinic to get it.

In practice, though, there are all sorts of caveats. Did you get the test because you had a fever and a cough? Or because you were scheduled for a hip replacement and your hospital insists that patients get tested in case they’re asymptomatic carriers?

If you get charged in that second scenario, Schmidt says the federal rules won’t protect you.

So one of her tips is to check before the test. Ask your doctor, “Is this a diagnostic test?”

If so, “Tell them, you know, ‘Now I assume this will be billed as a diagnostic COVID test, and there won’t be any cost-sharing according to the federal government guidelines.’”

Her second tip? Don’t be shy about calling her agency.

So if you suspect you were wrongly charged fees related to a COVID-19 test, and you haven’t been able to get answers from your insurer, you can try the Kansas Insurance Department.

Its consumer hotline is (800) 432-2484. Or, send an email (kid.webcomplaints@ks.gov) or fill out this online form.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

I write about how the world is transforming around us, from topsoil loss and invasive species to climate change. My goal is to explain why these stories matter to Kansas, and to report on the farmers, ranchers, scientists and other engaged people working to make Kansas more resilient. Email me at celia@kcur.org.
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