MISSION, Kans. — A trip to the emergency room to find out if she had COVID-19 ended with a surprise medical bill for one Kansas woman.
Angie Abbott was frightened on the November 2020 day when she started experiencing symptoms.
"I was having shortness of breath. I was coughing, just kind of feeling icky all over," she said.
Abbott decided to go to Saint Luke's Community Hospital on Johnson Drive.
"Before I arrived there, I called my insurance company, and they said they were in network and because it was COVID-related, I would be covered," she said.
The CARES Act required insurance companies to cover COVID-19 testing and diagnostic visits, without passing costs on to customers.
Cigna, Abbott's insurance company, spells that information out on its website, saying it is "waiving out of pocket costs for COVID-19 visits with in-network providers."
Once Abbott arrived at Saint Luke's, she was tested for the virus and received a chest X-ray.
Luckily, her lungs looked fine and her test came back negative.
"I was definitely relieved," Abbott said. "I definitely wasn't expecting what was to come next."
About a month after the visit, she received a bill from Saint Luke's in the mail. It said she owed $1,200 for her emergency room visit.
"I called the insurance company and they said you will not receive any more bills. You're not going to have to pay anything for this, because it was COVID-related," Abbott said.
However, the bills kept coming.
The fourth one arrived in February and said it was her final notice before the account was placed with a collection agency.
Abbott said a representative from her insurance company told her she was on the hook for the amount.
"I feel like I'm stuck in the middle," Abbott said.
She planned to use her stimulus check to cover the bill, but first, Abbott reached out to the 41 Action News I-Team.
The I-Team got in touch with Cigna, and the insurance company said the bill was an error.
"People deserve protection and peace of mind when it comes to their health. The outstanding claim has now been adjusted and covered at 100 percent, with no charge to the customer," a Cigna spokesperson wrote in a statement to 41 Action News.
Cigna said that both patients and healthcare providers can appeal coverage decisions if there's more information they would like the company to consider. In this case there was no formal appeal.
The company also encouraged customers who receive balance bills to reach out to a provider's billing department to negotiate a lower bill and to discuss any financial assistance programs that may be available.
More details of Cigna's COVID-19 Customer Protection Program can be found here.
Saint Luke's Health System said it is pleased there was a positive resolution for Abbott. A spokesperson said customers who think they've received bills in error should reach out to their healthcare providers, as health systems can be advocates in the appeals process.
Abbott is thrilled she won't have to pay for her COVID-19 diagnostic visit to the emergency room and is glad that she spoke out.
"I didn't want this to happen to other people," she said.
The 41 Action News I-Team reached out to state insurance departments in both Kansas and Missouri.
While the Missouri Department of Insurance said it has not received consumer complaints related to COVID-19 billing, the Kansas Insurance Department has received some complaints on this topic.
Spokesperson Lee Modesitt said that last July, the department sent out two consumer warnings about improper COVID-19 billing.
He advised customers to first reach out to their insurance company for resolutions in these cases.
However, if someone isn't satisfied with the response, they can also contact the Kansas Insurance Department.
Here's how to get in touch with insurance departments in each state:
Kansas Insurance Department
Missouri Department of Insurance