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New York Times

“It felt like a deception”: Elite NYC Hospital charges a huge COVID test fee

Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan advertised the “COVID-19 Test” on a large blue and white banner outside the emergency room in the Greenwich Village division. The banner didn’t say anything about the cost. However, cost turned out to be the most notable feature of the test. Lenox Hill, one of the city’s oldest and most famous hospitals, has repeatedly charged patients for regular nasal swab tests over $ 3,000, which is about 30 times the normal cost of the tests. .. Sign up for The New York Times The Morning Newsletter. “It was shocking to see such numbers when we were previously tested for about $ 135,” said Analoa, who was charged $ 3,358 for a test at Lenox Hill last month. .. Roa’s coronavirus testing bill is in 16 reviews from the site by The New York Times. They reached an unusually high price by Lenox Hill charging the test itself a high price (about 6 times the normal price) and charging the encounter as a “moderately complex” emergency room visit. Indicates to do. In one case, the family paid $ 39,314 for 12 tests this winter, all spent to meet the requirements for returning to work or school. In another example, an asymptomatic patient came in because he saw the banner outside and wanted to test after the trip. Her insurance was charged $ 2,963. Last year’s federal law required that coronavirus tests be provided to patients free of charge, so individuals are usually protected. None of the patients tested in the Lenox Hill emergency room were billed directly for service. But in the end, American patients bear the cost of these expensive tests in the form of higher premiums. Patient invoices indicate that at least one additional hospital owned by Lenox Hill’s parent group, Northwell Health, has charged patients at the mass testing site for an emergency room. “It felt like deception, and efforts to get money they weren’t entitled to,” Uttetabi said. She was considering a family claim and saw a $ 2,793 claim for a drive-through coronavirus test her husband received at Northwell Hospital, a suburb of New York, at Huntington Hospital on Long Island. The hospital asked the family for some of the bills that Tabi had previously refused to pay. The Times has asked readers to invoice them so they can understand the cost of testing and treating coronavirus. So far, more than 600 patients have participated. Their bill revealed patients facing high and illegal fees, as well as heavy medical debt for coronavirus treatment. Northwell Health, a non-profit organization, operates 23 hospitals in the region and was funded by an emergency healthcare provider of approximately $ 1.2 billion under federal CARES law last year. The chain was recently scrutinized after the Times revealed that it had sued more than 2,500 patients for medical debt during a pandemic. Since then, those cases have been withdrawn. Properly defending the coronavirus test accusation, Northwell then removed the blue sign in the Greenwich Village division advertising the service. Authorities said patients examined in the emergency room received more advanced treatment than elsewhere. They refused to comment on the case of a particular patient, but said their protocol included informing patients that their tests would involve an emergency room fee. The information sign is taped to the Plexiglas Shield at the registration desk. Barbara Osborne, Vice President of Communications at Northwell, said: However, Greenwich Village’s Lenox Hill tested 15,000 patients for the coronavirus during the pandemic process. The patient interviewed by the Times said he went there for an outside flag, not for seeking emergency medical care. They were asymptomatic and sought testing as a precautionary measure before traveling or socializing. Roa discovered emergency room charges in unusual circumstances. Her wallet had been stolen and she was checking her bill. She had no memory of visiting the emergency room and was worried that her identity had been stolen. “I was surprised when I called my insurance and asked who had my identity and what this would bring,” she said. “Probably 45 minutes later, this was all transferred to someone who could tell me that it was about COVID testing.” The Americans underwent about 370 million tests during the pandemic. Prices for each, like most services in the US healthcare system, can vary widely from hospital to clinic. New York’s state-owned testing site does not charge patients or collect health insurance information for COVID nasal swab tests. A study published last year found that a swab test in a hospital can be done for $ 20 to $ 850. Some independent laboratories have charged an additional fee of $ 2,315. Lenox Hill Greenwich Village Center charges $ 671 for the coronavirus test. This is six times that of major labs such as LabCorp and Quest. The rest of the price discrepancy is due to emergency room charges. Doctors and hospitals that charge high prices for tests can rely on the protection of the new federal government to ensure that they are paid. Last year, Congress passed a law requiring insurance companies to fully cover the cost of coronavirus testing and not apply patient out-of-pocket or other fees to the service. The insurance company will also have to pay for the services needed to get a coronavirus test, such as seeing a doctor and, in the case of Lenox Hill, the facility usage fee for the emergency room. Professor Lenny Shea, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies medical billing, said: .. “This is what we expect from a market-oriented approach to healthcare. That’s an action motivated by our law.” US emergency departments usually charge patients what is called a facility charge. .. This is the cost of going through the door and seeking treatment. Prices have skyrocketed in recent years and can cost around $ 200 for a simple visit and $ 1,800 for the most complex. Hospitals like Lenox Hill often defend these costs as needed to enforce federal law that requires care for all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Rich Miller, CEO of Northwell, said: “Even if someone is not insured, we provide the same level of care as an insured person. Emergency room fees are common in US systems, but in the world of coronavirus testing. At the request of The Times, data company Castlight Health analyzed 1.5 million coronavirus test claims and found that less than 4% of coronavirus tests were claimed through the emergency department. Most of these tests were associated with large claims with many charges, suggesting that nasal swabs were associated with more complex visits, according to Castlight data. , Only about 5,000 invoices (about 0.3%) out of 1.5 million samples were billed in the same way as the Lenox Hill fee. On the Lenox Hill site, there are actually two separate coronavirus testing processes. Miller explained that patients who arrive at the doctor’s direction for a coronavirus test will be sent to a service center that does not charge for the emergency room. Patients who come without the prescription will be evaluated. Approximately 75% of coronavirus tests at Lennox Hill Greenwich Village go through Miller’s advocated emergency room. “To the emergency room.” Those who would have been charged for their visit would have been evaluated accordingly to see if any other issues were wrong with them, “Miller said. “I believe this is an emergency department visit and properly discloses that we will be billed as an ER.” Founded in 1857, Lenox Hill is wealthy in its main division on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We have been providing services to our customers for a long time. Beyonce was born in 2012 and is the subject of the Netflix documentary series of the same name, which shows the internal workings of the hospital. In 2010, New York State granted Lenox Hill the right to take over the Greenwich Village building that was left empty by the closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital. It replaced it with a separate emergency room. It remains open 24 hours a day and provides care to the patient regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. However, unlike traditional emergency rooms, it is not physically connected to a larger hospital. Intensive emergency care units have surged nationwide and throughout New York City in recent years. Montefiore, Northwell and NYU-Langone all opened them within the last decade. Proponents praised them for expanding access to critical care without building an entire hospital. This can benefit poorly serviced urban and rural areas. But they also face criticism of how they price care, especially for simple visits. According to an analysis conducted by health insurance company United Healthcare, the average cost of visits related to common conditions such as fever and cough was 19 times higher in self-contained emergency rooms than in emergency centers. Dr. Jeremiah Shua, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, said: The price of a self-contained emergency room at Lenox Hill caught the eye of local government officials shortly after its opening. Community Boards of New York City, which has jurisdiction over Greenwich Village, held a meeting in 2016 to discuss some cases. One patient was charged $ 1,000 to see a bee sting and another faced a $ 3,000 fee associated with an ankle sprain. Sara Nathan wasn’t looking for an emergency level of care when tested at Lenox Hill Greenwich Village. She needed a test to get back to work as a nursery teacher. Her visit was billed for $ 3,194 and her insurance was negotiated up to $ 2,084. She recalls asking a front desk representative if she would be charged for a visit to the emergency room. She said she was told it wouldn’t be. Nathan is worried about the impact of these high rates on her premiums. “My insurance is already very high, and it infuriates me that they are adding to the cost of it for New Yorkers,” she said. There were few tests for coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic, but it has grown abundant since then, raising questions about why Lenox Hill advertised the tests on this site. Northwell owns an emergency center, a 15-minute walk from the Lenox Hill Emergency Room. Emergency medical centers for COVID nasal swab tests and doctors usually cost $ 350, nearly 90% cheaper. This article was originally published in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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