Baylor Scott & White waives COVID-19 related e-visit fees after patient frustration

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Health system Baylor Scott & White made the decision Tuesday night to ensure out-of-pocket fees are immediately waived for patients who have had e-visits with medical professionals prompted by the BS&W COVID-19 questionnaire.

KXAN learned this from a BS&W spokesperson Wednesday morning in addition to the fact that BS&W is in the process of reimbursing patients charged for e-visits related to COVID-19 symptoms from March 13 through March 17.

Baylor Scott & White received a great deal of focus from Austin area residents looking to get tested because BS&W opened the first COVID-19 referral test sites in Austin.

In order to get tested at these sites, you must have a referral from a medical professional. BS&W established a questionnaire on their site to filter people into the e-visits necessary to get the green light for a COVID-19 test kit.

In order to take the questionnaire, which BS&W says is free, you have to make a BS&W account. Multiple people reached out to KXAN frustrated that they had been asked to pay $40 for that e-visit necessary to qualify for COVID-19 testing, including one man who said the $40 fee initially deterred him from filling out the questionnaire.

Previously, Baylor Scott & White told KXAN that those who wind up getting approved to test for COVID-19 would ultimately have those charges removed. But the new decision Tuesday night means that those who appear to be at risk for COVID-19, based on their symptoms and experiences, won’t be charged for the e-visit whatsoever.

Baylor Scott & White spokesperson Christina Millweard explained, “if you take the questionnaire and need an e-visit for COVID-19 symptoms, patients shouldn’t be charged anything.”

She explained that when patients sign up for an e-visit, they have to select why they are having the visit. Those patients who list COVID-19 symptoms as the reason for their visit will have their fees waived.

However, Millweard said that those patients who take the questionnaire and based on their symptoms are directed to an e-visit for another condition besides COVID-19 may potentially have to pay for that e-visit.

Baylor Scott & White sent KXAN a statement which reads in part:

While we will seek to bill insurance companies for applicable testing associated with COVID-19, patient out-of-pocket costs associated with testing are expected to be waived by insurance companies, according to information stated by federal officials. No patient deemed appropriate for a COVID-19 test by a Baylor Scott & White provider will be denied the test regardless of their ability to pay.

It is important to note that, with the exception of emergency room testing done for COVID-19, patients are sent to specimen collection sites only after they’ve completed a free online screening questionnaire and subsequent consultation with our medical team.

Andrew Weeks, an Austinite, who is ill with symptoms he believes align with COVID-19, spoke with KXAN on Tuesday about his frustration with the $40 fee, but he paid it anyway in hopes of getting referred by a medical professional to get tested.

A day later, he had his e-visit with a medical professional and was asked lots of questions about his symptoms and travel history. He was sent a message by BS&W saying that additional information was needed to clarify the details he provided during his visit and that a medical professional would like to see him in person. Weeks called various BS&W phone lines and still is unsure about who to talk with to schedule an in-person visit. Though, he was told he would not be charged for the e-visit, he has not heard any mention of whether or not he will actually be tested for COVID-19.

“I think there needs to be no barriers to getting testing and any fee is a barrier and may prevent people from getting the testing they need,” he said. “I would like them to be more clear with what action to take, provide an outlet for communication because I don’t know where I am supposed to go, who I am supposed to talk to and how I am supposed to talk to them.”

These new drive-through locations are cropping up as state and local leaders promise an imminent influx of kits to test for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. The City of Austin has received 1,000 new test kits this week and says it plans to identify testing locations this week to meet the growing demand, but the city also notes that more kits are still needed.

As COVID-19 has spread across the U.S. in the past few weeks, regions have seen delays and confusion surrounding access to these tests, with federal leaders acknowledging the lack of test kits to meet the demand.

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