A fever and a cough, those were the symptoms Chris Phipps' 93-year-old father started showing on May 1.
"He was coughing since Thursday, felt chills and awful the night before, and that morning his temperature was a 102. That’s when I said, 'Oh no, okay,' Phipps said about his father.
He said on May 2 he called an ambulance for his father and followed it to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. His dad tested positive for the coronavirus.
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“They said he should go home because he was otherwise healthy, and while I was waiting to drive him home, I asked the nurse in the ER waiting room, ‘Well should I get tested?’ and they said, 'Yeah, if it was me, I would do it," recalled Phipps.
He said after he dropped his dad home, he returned to the hospital.
“It is like getting a root canal up your brain so, it’s not pleasant,” explained Phipps.
“They took my temperature, my blood pressure and all that kind of stuff and was like, 'Okay let’s do the test, but first go by this desk to get processed,' Phipps said. "I thought it would be free. She sat me down, asked me a couple questions, insurance card and said, okay that will be $500 for co-pay."
Because he was still in shock about his father's positive test results, Phipps said he went ahead and paid the charge without challenging it, but later thought about it.
"I started telling my wife and I said, '$500 you know, that just seems extraordinary.' I never really went into the ER, I waited outside in the waiting area, they were very fast, very good," Phipps explained.
According to Congress, House Bill 6201 requires private insurance companies to pick up the tab and cover COVID-19 tests for insured patients. The government said it will reimburse providers for those who are uninsured.
Phipps has Blue Cross Blue Shield and, in a statement, said the company said:
We are waiving copays, deductibles and coinsurance for medically necessary lab tests to diagnose COVID-19. The same goes for in-network provider visits related to COVID-19, whether at a provider's office, urgent care clinic, emergency room or by telehealth. (Testing must be medically necessary, consistent with CDC guidance and at the direction of a doctor.)
According to Phipps the insurance company reached out to him after NBC 5 started looking for answers. He said the company said his co-pay should have been zero and it was a mistake.
The statement showed $100 for the test and $739.75 for the ER visit, in which he paid $500 of it.
A spokesperson for Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas said what Phipps received was not a bill, but rather a record of activity, which is still being processed and the hospital is looking into the matter.
But Phipps received a receipt from the hospital and said his card was charged.
"The people there are fantastic, Presbyterian is wonderful and they save lives, but that’s a lot of money and so, if that’s happened to me, I’m sure it’s happening to other people who may not be as lucky as me and have insurance and etc.," said Phipps.
He said for him, it's not about the money, but he's worried for others and if he gets a refund plans to donate it to charity, or a charity of the hospital's choice.
Phipps' father, Charles, did end up back in the hospital but is doing better.
"He’s stable, which is amazing. He’s off of the oxygen and is trying to breathe on his own," he explained. "The oxygen is still low, but it’s above the critical numbers. It’s just now a waiting game to see if he can improve enough to go home.”
His father lives with his brother who has Down Syndrome and Dementia. Phipps said he has caretakers who help out around the clock and they believe that may be where the virus came from.
"So we think some of them probably brought it in. People can have it and be asymptomatic, that’s most likely how it happened, but we don’t know really," Phipps said.
If you've received a bill in relation to COVID-19 testing, reach out to your insurance company or provider. People can also reach out to NBC 5 Responds and submit a consumer complaint.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.