Posted at: 10/12/2012 10:17 PM
Updated at: 10/13/2012 12:00 PM
By: Mark Saxenmeyer
The nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak might soon be turning into a battle over medical bills.
All week, the state health department has been urging people who've been injected with the steroids--and who now have fungal meningitis symptoms--to get tested. On Friday, at least one patient came forward to ask, "Who's going to pay for these tests?'"
In all, health officials have contacted more than 800 people believed to be at risk. Some of them were instructed to see a doctor right away, but those instructions did NOT indicate who'd be footing the bill.
"Oh God, what just happened."
That's how one Minneapolis woman described her initial reaction, upon hearing about the meningitis scare. She asked 5 Eyewitness News not to identify her because she hasn't told her employers or many of her family members that she might be affected.
"I don't want to think the worst, " she said, her words trailing off.
This married mother of two showed us paperwork indicating she received epidural steroid injections at Medical Advanced Pain Specialists (MAPS) in Edina this past summer. "Both bills are for, like $240," she said, referring to her out-of-pocket expenses for two visits--after insurance.
Last Sunday she says the health department called her to ask if she had any symptoms. "I answered yes to so many questions that's when they said you need to go to the emergency room now."
She did, and when she got there, she handed over her health insurance card before submitting to several tests. She says she's still waiting for final results but in the meantime she's not sure how much of the hospital fees will be covered by insurance. And she's worried she'll be billed for the remainder.
"Now I have to pay another bill for someone else's error," she said, "and I can't really afford that. It's not fair."
When 5 Eyewitness news asked MAPS whether the clinic would be stepping up to help, it released a statement saying (in part), "Just as a person would submit their claim through their insurance provider following an accident which was not their fault, we believe the best course of action is for the normal insurance process to move forward."
A MAPS spokesperson also said that it's just too soon to consider how--or if--those who need medical assistance as a result of this meningitis scare will be reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses related to it. They say that decision will have to be determined at a later time.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org