There is a lot of confusion and sometimes deception in medical billing. There are many reasons for both of these outcomes that we won’t get into here; however, as we roll out curbside COVID testing at our locations, we have heard of other facilities that are using some questionable billing practices for Coronavirus testing.
We want to address billing fears by explaining why we decided to move forward with a curbside model and providing some tips on what to look out for in the ‘fine print’.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a national emergency, the CARES Act was created to require health insurance providers to cover the cost of all approved COVID-19 diagnostic testing and testing-related visits at a physician’s office, urgent care clinic, or emergency department, either in-network or out-of-network. This was combined with relaxed rules allowing providers to conduct testing outside of the actual clinic or emergency room settings, such as drive-through, curbside, tents, and lobbies. While these orders were put in place to help expand testing to all, they are resulting in some providers charging deceptively high charges for which patients are ultimately being billed.
At Neighbors Emergency Center, it was important to us that the testing we do be accessible to our communities – fast, accurate, and not leave you with a large bill. So we made the decision to implement non-emergency curbside testing administered by our facility staff. We made this choice for several reasons:
Curbside = No Facility Fee
One of the ways that some facilities are “gaming the system” is through facility fees. If you walk through the door for a test and are checked in, you may be charged a facility fee, even if you are only there for 15 minutes and the only item used on you is the test. Even if you are in your car, and a physician sees you, you could be charged a facility fee.
For non-emergency testing at Neighbors Emergency Center, you don’t need to be checked-in to our facility; we can administer the test while you wait in your car. This both prevents any potential exposure to you (in the event that you do not have COVID), and it means you don’t need to be charged a facility fee.
No Physician or Observation Fee
Some facilities are insisting that a physician speaks to every patient receiving a test, regardless of whether they are exhibiting symptoms or have even asked to see a physician. Even if the doctor only speaks to you for 15 seconds, the facility can charge you a physician fee or facility fee. For non-emergency curbside testing at a Neighbors location, you will not see a physician, and therefore will not be charged a physician fee or a facility fee.
We have testing available for emergency patients, too, if you are experiencing emergency symptoms and need to be checked-in to our emergency room.
Insurance Billing and/or Cash-Pay
Another method that some facilities are using to tack additional charges onto your bill is to bill your insurer (if you have it) and charge you a copay, or require you sign paperwork agreeing to let them bill you for any additional costs (facility or physician fees) before giving you the results of your test. Neighbors Emergency Center will not force you to bill your insurance if you would rather pay out of pocket, nor will we ask you to be responsible for additional fees.
Our testing fees are $175 for curbside rapid antigen testing, $225 for a molecular PCR test, and $75 for an antibody test.
If you are getting a COVID test, make sure you read the fine print and be on the lookout for additional fees. If you have questions about curbside rapid testing at Neighbors Emergency Center, you can find more information (and book an appointment) on this page, or you can call your nearest Neighbors. During periods of increased testing, test results may be delayed. For up-to-date information about COVID in the Houston area, reference our Coronavirus Updates page.
If you are experiencing an emergency, COVID-related or not, please visit your nearest Neighbors Emergency Center. If you are experiencing severe COVID symptoms, please come in for testing and treatment – no curbside appointment is needed.