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Franklin woman billed for coronavirus-related testing; TMJ4 News gets her charges removed

Posted at 8:27 AM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 09:29:45-04

FRANKLIN -- — Sonji Millet and her husband, Stephen, of Franklin, starting feeling sick after their March vacation.

"We went on a ski trip and came home on the 8th and by the 9th, I started experiencing the symptoms," said Millet.

"I had been hearing that over 100 people had been exposed at that event, so I was pretty certain that I had COVID," she said.

They both went to urgent care. It was the start of the public health crisis when testing for COVID-19 was limited.

"They had, at the time, said that you had to take a flu test first and then you had to wait for those results to come back and once they did, then you could call your doctor and get the COVID test," she explained.

Millet's flu test came back negative.

"Then they immediately scheduled me to go through the drive-through emergency bay and get the COVID test. A day after I got that test, I went to the emergency room. I was having respiratory issues, but I didn't have to go on a ventilator, they gave me an inhaler instead," she said.

Her COVID-19 test came back positive.

"They decided not to have my husband take the test even though he also had the same thing," she said.

Millet went home to recover with her husband and 23-year-old daughter, who also ended up contracting Coronavirus.

A month later bills started coming in, charges for her and her husband, totaled more than $2,000.
"So, I haven't seen a bill for COVID testing, but I've gotten the bills for everything else," Millet said.

Millet paid several of the bills before realizing some of the charges they both had, like the nearly $50 flu tests and the almost $180 doctors' visits to get that flu test, she shouldn't have to pay.

Not only did her company send a letter reminding employees their "medical plan covers the costs associated with COVID-19 testing."

The CARES Act requires health insurance plans cover testing needed to detect or diagnose COVID-19.

"I want to see the testing covered and the actual visit to get the testing covered," she said.

"It should all be associated because it was a pre-requisite for the COVID," she continued.

Millet called her insurance company, UnitedHealthCare, who instructed her to call Ascension, her medical provider. This is how her conversation went:
"You need to change the code. And they're like, well it's a flu test. It's the right code. No, it's the wrong code."

"The way I feel is, if it's not covered, you gave me a test that wasn't necessary," Millet said.

"It has been awful. Awful because when you talk to people and they are not understanding if it's associated it was a pre-requisite, so it is associated," she said.

Millet emailed TMJ4 News asking for help. A weeks later, after we asked why these tests related to COVID weren't covered, we received an email from UnitedHealthcare:

"UnitedHealthcare is waiving cost share for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and testing related visits. We have been reevaluating claims for dates of service through May, including a review of cost share waiver, where appropriate, to ensure that care providers used COVID-19 specific diagnosis. Ms. Millet’s claims have been reprocessed, waiving all cost share for this visit, as part of this review." -- Maria Gordon Shydlo, Communications Director, UnitedHealthcare

A spokesperson also told us the insurance company is working with Ascension to refund Millet the amount she already paid. Ascension declined to comment on Sonji Millet's case.

If you are in the process of fighting a medical bill and hit a roadblock, you can reach out to a patient advocate, like those with Patient Care Partners, LLC.

"The stress of having things just go to collections make people just write a check," said Marn Sandum, licensed life and health insurance agent as well as a patient advocate for Patient Care Partners, LLC.

Sandum says if you're billed incorrectly during COVID-19, pick up the phone and make a connection.

Her colleague and founder of the agency, Debby Deutsch says consumers need to be their own advocates.

"This is not the time to be a shy little violet. You have to be really tenacious and write down who you talked to and if there's a follow up needed, do it, follow up. Go up the chain, be prepared to do that," said Deutsch.

If you're not getting anywhere, you can reach out to an independent patient advocate. Their services will likely cost you money, but some including Patient Care Partners give free consults.

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