Feb 25, 2020 - Health

How a coronavirus scare can lead to surprise medical bills

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A man in Miami went to the hospital to receive a test for the coronavirus after developing flu-like symptoms, only to receive the news that he didn't have it — and a $3,270 medical bill, the Miami Herald reports.

Why it matters: The man had just returned from a work trip to China, so took his symptoms more seriously than normal, which is exactly what public health experts want people to do.

  • Our thought bubble: The episode would be a great parody of the health care system, if it wasn't real.

The man has a short-term health insurance plan, which usually have skimpy benefits in exchange for lower premiums, and don't have to cover pre-existing conditions. The Trump administration has expanded them.

  • The hospital told the Herald that the patient is only on the hook for $1,400 based on his insurance, but his insurer told him that first, he must provide three years of medical records to prove that his flu didn't relate to pre-existing conditions.
  • And more bills are probably coming.

The kicker: The patient works at a medical device company that doesn't offer health insurance to its employees.

Go deeper: Employers, not patients, have the most health insurance choices

Go deeper

Coronavirus raises health care affordability concerns in the U.S.

A health care worker prepares to transport a patient into an ambulance in Kirkland, Washington, on Feb. 29. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

The threat of the coronavirus is already exposing the holes in the U.S. health care system, particularly for low-income people and those without health insurance.

Why it matters: If affordability concerns keep people from receiving the care they need, or from staying home in order to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, we've got an even bigger problem.

Go deeperArrowMar 2, 2020 - Health

Hospitals halt medical bills for coronavirus patients

A Providence hospital in Washington state. Photo: Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images

Some hospital systems are temporarily pausing bills for any patients who receive care related to the new coronavirus.

Why it matters: Receiving costly medical bills could discourage people from seeking care even as the outbreak worsens. However, it's unclear what patients' financial obligations will look like once the pandemic simmers.

Go deeperArrowMar 13, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus could expose the worst parts of the U.S. health system

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The coronavirus may soon become a high-stakes reminder of the flaws in the U.S. health care system.

Why it matters: Our expensive, inaccessible health care system could easily make it harder to control the virus' spread, failing individual patients and putting more people at risk in the process.

Go deeperArrowMar 4, 2020 - Health