An American who visited Wuhan for work in January developed flu-like symptoms after he came home, and went to a hospital to get tested for the novel coronavirus, feeling this would be the responsible thing to do.
While he turned out to only have the flu, Osmel Martinez Azcue got the shock of his life nearly two weeks later when he was informed by his insurance company that they had gotten a bill for US $3,270 (approximately SGD 4,568.58) just for the test.
Mr Azcue’s health insurance is on a limited plan, which is why he still has to pay US $1,400 (approximately SGD 1,956.32) of the bill, but only if he submits three years worth of medical records to his insurance company (National General Insurance) showing that the flu for which he tested positive when he returned from China is unrelated to any preexisting conditions.
If he fails to sufficiently do so, he will have to pay the full hospital bill for the test.
News of Mr Azcue’s expensive testing fee sounded an alarm with many health workers, due to fears that people who believe they may be infected would be hesitant to come forward for testing and treatment due to their limited financial abilities.
Mr Azcue told the Miami Herald, “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?”
Under President Donald Trump, the United States rolled back the Affordable Care Act, making way for so-called “junk plans” such as the one Mr Azcue has, that have cheaper premiums than other insurance plans but are not mandated to follow the law’s standards for health coverage, meaning people who avail of them could end up with huge out-of-pocket expenses.
Georgetown University professor and co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms Sabrina Corletta was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying, “When someone has flu-like symptoms, you want them to to seek medical care. If they have one of these junk plans and they know they might be on the hook for more than they can afford to seek that care, a lot of them just won’t, and that is a public health concern.”
This is the reason why some US leaders are fighting for medical insurance for everyone.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who once worked as a bartender, tweeted on Wednesday, February 26, “I used to work in the food industry. I can’t tell you how many times the people who handle your food – who are already overworked & underpaid – show up sick to work because our country refuses to guarantee healthcare or paid sick leave. We need #MedicareForAll.”
I used to work in the food industry.
I can’t tell you how many times the people who handle your food – who are already overworked & underpaid – show up sick to work because our country refuses to guarantee healthcare or paid sick leave.
We need #MedicareForAll.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 25, 2020
There are currently 15 confirmed cases in the country, with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reporting on Thursday (Feb 26) that the latest case was of unknown origin, and could possibly signify a community spread.
The patient, now in isolation in Northern California “reportedly did not have relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient with COVID-19,” the CDC said.
It added in a statement, “At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown. It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States.” —/TISG
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