John Druschitz spent five days in a Texas hospital last April with fever and shortness of breath. It was still the early days of the pandemic, and doctors puzzled over a diagnosis.
They initially suspected coronavirus and hung signs outside his door warning those entering to wear protective equipment. Mr. Druschitz had already spent two weeks at home with worsening symptoms. He recalls one doctor telling him, “This is what it does to a person.”
Ensuing lab work, however, was ambiguous: Multiple molecular tests for coronavirus came back negative, but an antibody test was positive.
Doctors found that Mr. Druschitz had an irregular heartbeat and blood clots in both his lungs. They sent him home on oxygen, and ultimately did not give a coronavirus diagnosis because of the negative tests. He didn’t think much about the decision until this fall, when he received a $22,367.81 bill that the hospital has since threatened to send to collections.
too narrow, and for covering bills only where coronavirus is the primary diagnosis. A patient with a primary diagnosis of respiratory failure and a secondary diagnosis of coronavirus would not qualify, for example.
The Health Resources and Services Administration, which runs the federal fund, does not have plans to change that policy. So far, it has spent $2 billion to reimburse health care providers for the bills of uninsured coronavirus patients.
“The H.R.S.A. uninsured program is a voluntary claims program, not an insurance program,” said Martin Kramer, an agency spokesman. “The scope is narrow, and its primary function is to help combat Covid-19 by removing financial barriers.”
The hospital that treated Mr. Druschitz — the Baylor, Scott and White Medical Center in Austin, Texas — did not submit his charges for reimbursement because of the negative coronavirus tests, said Julie Smith, a spokeswoman.