John Druschitz spent five days in a Texas hospital last April with fever and shortness of breath as doctors puzzled over a diagnosis.
They initially suspected coronavirus.
But ensuing lab work was ambiguous: Multiple molecular tests for coronavirus came back negative, but an antibody test was positive.
Doctors found that Mr. Druschitz, 65, 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.
Working with a patient advocate, he discovered that his debt stemmed in no small part from his diagnosis. Not having a coronavirus diagnosis disqualified his hospital from tapping into a federal fund to cover his bills.
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.