AUSTIN (KXAN) – If your dental office adds a fee to cover the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE), health insurance companies may not pay for it.

That’s what one local patient learned after he asked about three $20 charges with no clear description that appeared on his bill.

“They try to hide the charge a little bit but if you don’t know it, they’re not going to call and tell you.”

His insurance company said it wouldn’t be covering the cost of the fees.

The economic slide has not spared dental offices, which have to fight it out in the open market for masks, gowns, face shields and gloves. The Texas Board of Dental Examiners requires the PPE, which is often costly.

“It’s a huge expense,” said Janessa Bock, President-Elect of the Texas Dental Hygienist Association.

Bock works outside of Houston.

“I know for a few weeks we spent $3,000, and I work with a small team,” she said. “And that’s $3,000 of masks alone.”

Bock said that the American Dental Association has told dental offices that they can charge patients to cover the costs of the PPE, but it’s up to each office.

“I’ve heard anywhere from $10 to $35…it depends. At my practice, we won’t be charging because we feel like it’s part of our service and goes to insurance,” explained Bock. 

But health insurers aren’t bound by any rules as far as reimbursement of PPE costs.

“Some insurance companies are covering anywhere from $8 to $9 an appointment,” she said. “But it’s not all of them, and it’s actually very few.”