Osmel Martinez Azcue took a work trip to China last month, but when he returned to Miami he started developing flu-like symptoms, making him wonder if he'd contracted coronavirus.
Taking what he felt was the responsible course of action, he went to Jackson Memorial Hospital to get himself tested. Azcue, who has a very limited insurance plan, knew that the cost of the procedure would come out of his pocket. As it turned out, he had the regular flu and not coronavirus. But as the Miami Herald reports, Azcue's due diligence was costly. Two weeks later, his insurance company sent him a bill for $3,270.
"In 2018, President Donald Trump’s administration rolled back Affordable Care Act regulations and allowed so-called 'junk plans' in the market," writes the Herald's Ben Conark. "Consumers mistakenly assume that the plans with lower monthly costs will be better than no insurance at all in case of a medical catastrophe, but often the plans aren’t very different from going without insurance altogether."
Azcue's insurance plan stipulates that he's only responsible for $1,400 of the bill -- as long as he can dig up three years of medical records to prove that the flu he contracted wasn't brought on by a pre-existing medical condition.
“When someone has flu-like symptoms, you want them to to seek medical care,” Georgetown University professor Sabrina Corlette told the Herald. “If they have one of these junk plans and they know they might be on the hook for more than they can afford to seek that care, a lot of them just won’t, and that is a public health concern.”
Azcue said his ordeal is an example of how healthcare costs could actually exacerbate the spread of disease and virus outbreaks.
“How can they expect normal citizens to contribute to eliminating the potential risk of person-to-person spread if hospitals are waiting to charge us $3,270 for a simple blood test and a nasal swab?” he said.