Christopher Hoffman had the telltale symptoms: a dry cough, trouble breathing and a missing sense of smell. In early March, before the coronavirus shut the country down, the 25-year-old New Yorker went to urgent care, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.
"Because I didn't have a fever, they didn't think to test me for COVID-19," Hoffman told NBC News. A week later, he was in the hospital on an IV.
He recovered, but his battle with what he is certain was COVID-19 left him with more than $3,800 in out-of-pocket expenses and no clue exactly how much his insurer will cover — a common refrain in the age of the coronavirus.
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"I'm going to have to duke it out with my insurance company," said Hoffman, who was never formally diagnosed with the disease and got sick before many measures to cut the cost of catching it were in effect.
The government and insurance companies have vowed to pick up much of the tab for coronavirus testing and treatment. But insurance experts, doctors and health care economists told NBC News that because of the fragmented nature of the U.S. health care system, they're already seeing holes in this impromptu safety net.