Better Get Baquero: East Harlem Woman Billed for Covered Medical Treatment

A trip to an urgent care medical facility is supposed to be a lot less expensive than an emergency room visit. But a Manhattan senior citizen found it costly when she was billed more than $1,000, even though she had insurance. 

When Beverly Ellis, a nurse who lives in East Harlem, went to vacation in Florida in July, she forgot to pack spare medicine and ran out of albuterol pump for her asthma. 

Worried oabout running out of her asthma medication, Ellis headed to a local urgent care facility, got a prescription, and submitted the claim to her health insurer.

About four months later, she received a bill for $1,000, and then for $1,031.

Ellis called her primary and supplemental health insurers, and they told her she should be covered. She couldn't figure out why she was being billed.

Then she grew worried when collection notices started coming in -- and that's when she contacted the Better Get Baquero consumer investigative team. 

"I don't have $1,000 to give unnecessarily, especially when I have adequate health insurance," she said.

BGB reached out to Memorial Pembroke Hospital, which ran the urgent care facility, to ask why Ellis was being billed. They directed BGB to the hospital's billing company, and without giving an explanation, stopped sending collection notices to Ellis. 

Ellis says she's grateful the issue has been resolved. 

So what's the difference in billing between urgent care centers and emergency rooms?

Emergency room visits are much more expensive, and take more time. According to Cigna, for example, the average ER visit costs more than $22,000. The average urgent care visit is just $176. And most procedures done at urgent care centers are covered by insurance. But people should always check with their own carriers. 

To reach Lynda Baquero's team, call 1-844-NEWS-244, or log onto nbcnewyork.com/gethelp. 

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