Some Insurance Companies Tacking On COVID-Related Fees, PA Warns

PENNSYLVANIA — The state has issued a notice to insurance companies that have been using the coronavirus crisis to leverage inappropriate billing practices against residents.

The inappropriate practices have occurred particularly among dental insurers, the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance said, and include “surprise balance bills.” Some companies, it seems, are charging extra amounts for coronavirus-related care without disclosing it up front or being clear in the fine print.

“While some of these fees may be appropriate, others may be counter to the terms of the contract between an insurer and a provider, which often contain provisions intended to protect consumers from extra costs and fees,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said in a statement.

Altman urged residents to examine their insurance contracts and to report any such practices to the Office of the Attorney General.

“Consumers should not be held responsible for fees that are prohibited or otherwise accommodated for as part of the insurer-provider relationship,” Altman said.

The state did not name specific insurers which have been charging undue fees or violating contracts, beyond specifying companies serving the dental industry.

Separately, Altman also warned about increasing reports of egregious bills for basic lab services, calling such price gouging “surprise billing” and urging for legislative action to protect consumers.

“These stories really amplify the need for surprise billing protections for consumers. Whether that happens in Washington or within our own state legislature, policymakers must ensure that patients are held harmless in surprise billing situations,” she added.

If you receive an unexpected bill related to coronavirus or other healthcare services, contact officials 1-877-881-6388.

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