NEW YORK (WABC) -- Some people across the Tri-State are receiving medical bills for old COVID tests they took years ago. It's an issue affecting people who had insurance, not those who were uninsured.
"I was waiting in line forever," said David Brouillette.
The New York City resident remembers waiting in line in the cold at CityMD on W. 88th Street to get a COVID test before taking his first trip after the pandemic lockdown. He went with friends upstate to see the fall colors.
"We had all been cooped up inside, we didn't know when the vaccine was coming and we wanted to be safe," he said. "I sort of forgot about it, until maybe a month ago."
He forgot about it, until a bill from CityMD arrived.
"I had to check the date a few times," said Brouillette. "It definitely shocked me."
It was a bill for $219 from October of 2020. The leaves have changed colors twice since then.
He's not alone. Dozens of people have been taking to social media to complain about their bills, some as high as $300.
"I'm mad," he said. "I'm still mad."
7 On Your Side Investigates reached out repeatedly to CityMD to sit down and answer our specific questions. Instead they sent a statement that says, in part, they waited more than two years to send testing bills.
"CityMD held all COVID-related patient statements from March 2020 - June 2022, as we worked closely with insurance companies and monitored rapidly changing guidelines."
The statement went on to say the company ".... started releasing statements based on feedback we received from insurance plans, as not all insurance products are eligible for the cost sharing waiver."
In Brouillette's case, he said the urgent care billed him for an "office visit" instead of a COVID-19 test, which his insurance would have covered.
"And I said that doesn't seem right because I didn't have an office visit, I had a test and they said 'oh that's just how we do it,'" said Brouillette.
CityMD also told 7 On Your Side Investigates in a statement they're an urgent care and "not a COVID-19 testing site" even though New York City partnered with the company to become a main testing hub.
Former NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio had announced the partnership at a daily press briefing and thanked the company for its partnership.
And while many city and state leaders, like former Gov. Andrew Cuomo had kept talking about "no cost" testing during the height of the pandemic, former de Blasio had said the CityMD partnership was free for the uninsured, he didn't say anything about what would happen to those with insurance.
"It's unbelievable, how can this possibly be happening?" said Elisabeth Ryden Benjamin, the Vice President of Health Initiatives for the Community Service Society. It's a group that fights for affordable healthcare and against bills like Brouillette received.
"There's really no reason why this should be happening," said Ryden Benjamin. "The guidance is quite clear that there should be no balance billing for COVID-19 tests."
She says the Community Service Society has received similar complaints not just about CityMD, but other testing facilities as well.
As for Brouillette, he's going to keep fighting.
"They told me they were going to send it to collections," said the 25-year-old.
He has filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General. The office told him they're investigating.
Here's the full statement sent by CityMD in regards to this story:
To protect our patients' privacy, we are unable to share specific patient information without valid HIPAA authorizations.
As stated on our website for patients, the Public Health Emergency (PHE) is extended to January 11, 2023. Co-payments on commercially insured patients for COVID-19 related visits will not be collected at the time of service but depending on their insurance plan and their specific benefits they could receive a balance post discharge.
CityMD held all COVID-related patient statements from March 2020 - June 2022, as we worked closely with insurance companies and monitored rapidly changing guidelines. On June 23rd, CityMD started releasing statements based on feedback we received from insurance plans, as not all insurance products are eligible for the cost sharing waiver. This did result in patients receiving bills for care received from March 2020 through the present.
Notably, CityMD is not a COVID-19 testing site, rather an urgent care facility that can evaluate, treat, and prescribe necessary medications for those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. We are proud to serve a vital need for our communities.
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