When Miami Mayor Francis Suarez tested positive for coronavirus in March, Sam Soares and his family started to worry.
“A lot of the people who work in the consulate work directly with the delegation that came with the president, the Brazilian president,” Soares said.
The family owns and operates ‘Mundo Cafe,’ which is located inside of the same building as the Brazilian Consulate General.
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In March, when news broke that Mayor Suarez and a member of the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s staff tested positive, Soares and four family members went to Hialeah Hospital to get tested.
“The five of us got there and we were waiting outside, and they set up a triage area under a tent. We waited over 40 minutes outside in that tent area,” Soares said.
Soares says when they arrived at the hospital, they gave their insurance information to staff members. Then, he says medical staff took their temperatures and checked their blood pressure.
But Soares says they were told they couldn’t get tested.
“Because of the current guidelines we are going to send you home, and you don’t need to get tested because we have a limited amount of testing,” Soares said.
Weeks later, Soares says they received a bill.
“All of a sudden we have five bills for $706,” Soares said.
Each family member received a bill for the visit, something Soares calls “unfair.”
“We were never admitted to the ER, we were there under the tent for triage for not even 20 minutes. I think it is unfair for my insurance to pay for the bill,” Soares said.
NBC 6 Responds reached out to Hialeah Hospital. In a statement, a representative told us, “While we are unable to comment on any individual’s case due to privacy laws, Hialeah Hospital monitors and follows CDC and State guidelines for administration of tests for COVID-19. Our clinicians determine the appropriateness of testing for each patient’s case, which in and of itself requires a medical evaluation for which patients are billed. Patients are encouraged to visit our website to find information on how to receive an estimate of charges in advance of services.”
“Their date of service for these bills was March 19, 2020, nobody knew what was going on at that time,” said attorney Patrick Sullivan.
Sullivan says despite confusion early on about COVID-19 testing, hospitals can charge for any treatment provided.
“Maybe they said ‘I have a headache this morning’ or something and then that triggers OK we have to take more steps as a hospital so we are not liable for not providing treatment and getting sued for malpractice if you have COVID,” Sullivan said.
It’s why he recommends consumers to ask upfront what they will be charged.
“When you come to the hospital, you can actually ask before you get treatment how much will I be charged for this,” Sullivan said.
He suggests checking what’s known as the hospital’s chargemaster online, which displays the hospital’s standard prices for services.
If you end up in a billing dispute or if your insurance is not applied appropriately, Sullivan recommends to keep documentation and ask the hospital to reprocess the bills.
“It is important to send these things in writing. You can call the first time but if you are not putting it in writing as far as the hospital is concerned and the insurance company is concerned it may not have happened,” Sullivan said.
Soares says his family is still waiting for the hospital to reprocess two bills. He says they are yet to receive a detailed description of charges for services provided despite requesting it from the hospital.