NORCROSS, Ga. — Chances are you’ve had a COVID-19 test and if you have insurance, that test should be free. It’s the law.
But, our 11Alive Reveal investigation found people are visiting one local clinic for that free test and leaving with a bill.
Most of us know the drill by now. Feeling sick? Get a COVID test. It’s typically a quick swab of the nose, free of charge but when Dustin Timbrook wasn’t feeling well, he said his COVID test was anything but typical.
“I thought it was odd. Why are we treating this like a normal doctor's visit?” Timbrook said about the experience.
Gwinnett Urgent Care and Family Practice in Norcross advertises free COVID testing with insurance. However, what the sign doesn’t say is that you also have to see the doctor.
Timbrook explained he was weighed, had his blood pressure taken, and finally got a nasal swab, which he said he assumed was a COVID test.
As it turns out, it was much more than that. Timbrook said unbeknownst to him, the clinic tested him for roughly 40 other illnesses including influenza, rhinovirus, pneumonia, whooping couch, the measles, mumps and much more. In total, the visit came with a price tag of nearly $1,200.
“Which is crazy. I went in for a COVID test and they tested for 40 additional things and submitted $1,200 worth of claims, and at least $800 of that was not covered by my insurance,” he added.
11Alive took a closer look at the clinic and found Timbrook wasn’t the only one with this complaint. Google reviews show similar stories of patients being required to see the doctor and paying $125 even with insurance.
That's concerning news to health experts like Dr. Ge Bai with Johns Hopkins, who told 11Alive patients are "not supposed to pay anything out of pocket."
Krutika Amin with the Kaiser Family Founded added that "early on in the Biden administration they clarified that when someone goes to specifically get a COVID 19 test, the associated costs of that are also required to be covered by the insurer.”
Both women are experts on the CARES (or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act and said by law, people with insurance don’t have to pay for a COVID-19 test. However, Dr. Bai added that some places are unfortunately still charging patients.
“That's actually illegal and we have seen many disputes,” she said.
After scheduling an appointment for the test ourselves, the receptionist at the clinic informed 11Alive, “I do need to collect $125.”