‘As she waited for the results of her rapid COVID-19 test, Rachel de Cordova sat in her car and read through a stack of documents given to her by SignatureCare Emergency Center,” Marshall Allen writes at ProPublica.
“Without de Cordova leaving her car, the staff at the freestanding emergency room near her home in Houston had checked her blood pressure, pulse and temperature during the July 21 appointment. She had been suffering sinus stuffiness and a headache, so she handed them her insurance card to pay for the $175 rapid-response drive-thru test. Then they stuck a swab deep into her nasal cavity to obtain a specimen. De Cordova is an attorney who specializes in civil litigation defense and maritime law. She cringes when she’s asked to sign away her rights and scrutinizes the fine print. The documents she had been given included disclosures required by recent laws in Texas that try to rein in the billing practices of stand-alone emergency centers like SignatureCare. One said that while the facility would submit its bill to insurance plans, it doesn’t have contractual relationships with them, meaning the care would be considered out-of-network. Patients are responsible for any charges not covered by their plan, it said, as well as any copayment, deductible or coinsurance. The more she read, the more annoyed de Cordova became. SignatureCare charges a ‘facility fee’ for treatment, the document said, ranging “between five hundred dollars and one hundred thousand dollars.” Another charge, the ‘observation fee,’ could range from $1,000 to $100,000. De Cordova didn’t think her fees for the test could rise into the six figures. But SignatureCare was giving itself leeway to charge almost any amount to her insurance plan —’ and she could be on the hook. She knew she couldn’t sign the document. But that created a problem: She still needed to get her test results.” Marshall Allen, “How a $175 COVID-19 Test Led to $2,479 in Charges,” ProPublica.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.