Report finds more people facing medical debt during pandemic

More than half of people who caught COVID-19 or lost income because of it are now dealing with medical debt, according to a report by the non-profit healthcare advocate, The Commonwealth Fund.

It's not just the uninsured who end up with medical debt. The Commonwealth Fund reports more than one-third of insured adults, and half of uninsured adults, are struggling to pay medical debt.  

RELATED: Pearland woman gets $5700 COVID-19 test bill

If you believe a medical bill has an error, you can take steps to dispute it.

"I was really kind of frustrated and upset because as a registered nurse, we’re already putting our life on the line every day," said Danielle Riley.

Riley says she and her family were tested for COVID-19 a year ago at Life Savers Emergency Room.

"Low and behold almost a year later, I received almost a $400 bill in the mail," said Riley.

Riley says she contacted them, saying that since her insurance was billed, the Federal CARES Act should ensure that she shouldn't have had a balance.

"No one could explain to me why it wasn’t covered," said Riley.


Medical Billing Advocates of America reports that about 80% of medical bills contain errors.

"I believe people don’t do anything about it because they don’t know where to start," said Susan Null with the Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals.

Patients can ask for an itemized bill and dispute any possible errors with the care provider.

If that doesn't resolve it, you can hire a medical billing advocate who can appeal your bills to your providers and your insurer.

"So you can maximize what’s coming to you from the medical benefits you might have, and minimize any of the unintended expenses that you might incur by actually using those benefits," said Null.

You or an advocate can also ask the healthcare provider for financial assistance.


"Hospitals often have programs that they can tap into to help either reduce that bill or completely wipe that bill out," said Null.  

We reached out to Life Savers Emergency Room, which tells us the billing department has and will again contact Riley to resolve her bill, but says they cannot discuss her bill due to HIPAA laws. The company says they have the ability to quickly resolve any billing questions. 
You can find a medical billing advocate through the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants or the Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals.