Cost of Care: COVID-19 bills for uninsured patients could be catastrophic

Reporter: Lauren Sweeney
Published: Updated:
MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Dozens of nurses, staff and visiting, treats patients at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas, where hospitalizations and deaths have spiked this month. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) via CNN.

Doctors in an Orlando area hospital saved Kevin Rathel’s life in April.

After three weeks in the hospital and some time on the ventilator, he was released. But months later, the Rathels still don’t know how much of his hospitalization and care they will have to pay for.

“You’ve gone through this big ordeal, and the last thing you want to think about is how much that’s going to cost and what will mean to our family,” said Stacie Rathel.

The family is uninsured, putting them in a small group of Americans who could see catastrophic costs related to COVID-19 hospitalization.

“It could be hundreds of thousands of dollars for a typical hospital stay. (People who are uninsured) are going to have to pay that,” said Jon Hess with Athos Health, a company dedicated to helping consumers navigate healthcare costs.

Hess said uninsured patients like Rathel should ask to be considered as part of the hospital’s charity care program, and ask for financial aid payoff programs.

Rathel said when she called the hospital to ask about her husband’s bill, she was told the bill was close to $500,000.

She said the federal government picked up a large portion of the bill, but there was still around $30,000 unaccounted for.

“I don’t know who’s going to pay that That would be a pretty big bill for us to have to deal with,” she said.

Hess said all insurance companies that are backed by the Affordable Care Act are covering COVID related expenses from testing to treatment at 100 percent with no out of pocket cost to the consumer.

But, he said there are caveats.

For instance, not all plans are actually backed by the Affordable Care Act.

And there may be circumstances where insurance decides not to cover a drug administered in an outpatient setting.

He said the best thing to do is to call your insurance company and ask if you could expect any out of pocket cost associated with COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment or hospitalization.

“Don’t wait until you’re sick and something goes wrong to call your insurance company because then it’s a fight. You want to get out in front of it”, he said.

WINK News is taking an in-depth look at health care in our new Cost of Care series. If you have a story you want to be heard, whether it’s a high medical bill, an insurance dispute or a medical procedure gone wrong, send us an email to

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