A major concern during the worldwide coronavirus crisis is the potentially life-altering medical bills that could follow hospitalization. This concern is especially present with uninsured populations, who often fall into lower-income categories already. Unfortunately, few Americans are aware that the federal government is covering all COVID-19 associated medical costs for those lacking insurance. In fact, those lacking insurance shouldn’t receive a bill for COVID-19 treatment!
In 2019, nearly 40 million American adults did not have a health insurance policy. From March to May of 2020 alone, layoffs and job cuts resulted in another 27 million people losing health coverage. In the face of a global pandemic, many of these uninsured Americans worry that they will not be able to cover medical costs should they fall ill with COVID-19. The American government, however, covers coronavirus-related costs for the uninsured; so why hasn’t anyone heard about it?
President Trump announced in April that the federal government would cover all testing and treatment costs for uninsured Americans affected by the novel coronavirus. The program is part of the federal pandemic relief legislation called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES act. It also provided $2 trillion in one-time cash payments, increased unemployment benefits, loan forgiveness, federal aid for corporations, and aid for state and local governments during the coronavirus crisis.
Blake Farmer of Nashville Public Radio spoke to Angela Settles, the widow of Darius Settles who contracted coronavirus earlier this year and passed from the illness on July 4, regarding the couple’s experience with TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center. The hospital had not disclosed that all of Settles’ medical bills would be covered by the government, since it was not required by law to tell the patient.
Settles was 30 years old with no underlying health conditions, and had visited the hospital twice for his symptoms, once before his diagnosis and once after. He refused to return a third time in fear of the oncoming pile of medical bills and died in his home soon after. Had Settles and his wife been made aware of the federal cost relief, Settles may have been more willing to receive the medical care he needed.
“If there are people who are not getting the screening, testing and treatment because of fear of a bill, that not only endangers themselves — that makes it much harder for the public health professionals to get a handle on the crisis overall,” Executive Director of the California-based Health Access group Anthony Wright said in an interview with PBS.
If you or a loved one lacks insurance and is diagnosed with COVID-19, make sure to ask your doctor about the steps that can be taken to avoid accumulating medical bills.
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