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    Johana - Chapter 2

    Miami, FL


    She did what she had to - for her job and for her health. Exposed to Covid-19 as a front-line worker, Johana went to her local public hospital to take a Covid-19 test. She was told the bill would be covered. Instead, the hospital sent the bill to collections.

  • Navigating the Covid-19 pandemic has been especially hard for front-line workers like Johana, a line-cook at a Miami restaurant.
    Working from home was never an option, and during the height of the pandemic one of her co-workers got Covid, forcing the restaurant to close while everyone got tested.
    Although Johana tested negative, she still lost four days of wages as she waited for results. She also got a $500 bill for the Covid test she took at Jackson Hospital, part of Miami-Dade County’s publicly funded health system.
    The charges should have been covered under the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program. This program, unknown to most consumers, reimburses participating providers for the cost of testing and treating uninsured patients for COVID-19.

    My employer asked me to take the test before I could go back to work. I didn’t have a choice,” Johana says. “This surprise bill came at the worst time.”

  • Unable to pay, behind on her other bills and working reduced hours during the pandemic, Johana sought assistance from Florida Health Justice Project (FHJP). FHJP contacted Jackson to remind the hospital about the HRSA program. FHJP received assurance from Jackson officials that Johana’s claim would be submitted to HRSA for reimbursement. Instead, months later, the bill was sent to collections.


    FHJP has also repeatedly urged Jackson to provide information to patients regarding the program and to publicize the program on its website.


    It is important that information about free testing and treatment for COVID for uninsured residents be widely shared. Some patients, unaware they are not financially responsible, pay small amounts from their limited income to avoid collections and protect their credit. Some fear unpaid bills could be used against them in immigration cases. Others may avoid seeking timely care for fear of incurring a large bill.
    Surprise billing from hospitals and healthcare providers isn’t limited to Covid tests. Some uninsured patients have erroneously received bills for treatment and hospitalizations.
    That’s the situation Z.B. faced, after a five-day hospital stay. Uninsured at the time, Z.B. was thankful she received excellent care that enabled her to survive the harrowing experience.
    But then she got a $30,000 bill from the hospital. Z.B. also sought assistance from FHJP and was eventually able to have the debt paid by the special federal Covid relief program that reimburses certain hospitals.

  • Did you receive a surprise bill for a Covid-19 test or hospital stay? Know your rights.




    English | https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/uninsured-patient-covid-services-poster.pdf

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