Hospital hits Metro Detroit man with $600 bill after COVID-19 test

Phillip Gallegar believed test was free for uninsured

A Metro Detroit man was hit with a hospital bill for more than $600 after he got a COVID-19 test.
A Metro Detroit man was hit with a hospital bill for more than $600 after he got a COVID-19 test.

LIVONIA, Mich. – A Metro Detroit man was hit with a hospital bill for more than $600 after he got a COVID-19 test.

Phillip Gallegar initially believed the test was free, so he was surprised when he got the bills from St. Mary Mercy Livonia. He received one bill for $140 and another bill for $460 for a total of $600.

He got the test over the summer when he had concerns about COVID at work. He said he googled “free COVID-19 test near me” and was directed to St. Mary Mercy Livonia for a standard PCR test. At that time the hospital was doing drive-up testing near the Emergency Room.

Read: Where to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan in August: List of clinics

“I went to the drive-thru testing and got what felt like a perfectly normal COVID test,” Gallegar said.

He said he was asked a few simple questions, explained he didn’t have insurance and was told how to get the results. He said he never got out of his car or needed medical treatment. He said it only took a few minutes.

“Mid-September I got a bill for $140 and when I called the hospital about that bill they also let me know that I had another bill coming up for $460 so I was looking at a $600 total for his COVID test,” Gallegar said.

Later roughly 150 was taken off the total for what Gallegar said he was told was a supplement for the uninsured.

Local 4 reached out to St. Mary Mercy Livonia and was told the following:

“COVID-19 testing is not a free service. Any testing completed at our COVID-19 testing loop location was an Emergency Room based medical service covered by most insurance carriers. For non-insured patients, our hospital offers a direct-payer option. St. Mary Mercy supports price transparency and believes it is important for our patients to know what out-of-pocket costs that will incur.”

Local 4′s Hank Winchester made calls to the hospital’s team regarding Gallegar’s situation. Gallegar said the hospital’s tone with him has completely changed since Local 4 got involved. He said the hospital told him the bill was sent to him by accident and had been coded incorrectly.

“Sounds like they coded it wrong. Not as a COVID test, but as an ER visit,” Gallegar said.

The hospital is working with Gallegar to resolve the billing issue. He said a representative from the hospital has worked to contact the collection agency that has been going after Gallegar.

“Honestly I find medical billing to be incredibly complicated and I’d bet most doctors would agree. In non-emergency situations you should talk to the hospital or insurer to find out what is covered,” Local 4′s Dr. Frank McGeorge said.

If you get charged for something you don’t think is right, don’t be afraid to ask the hospital.

Local 4 reached out to find out how much a standard COVID-19 PCR test would be for someone uninsured. Hank Winchester said he was bounced around from billing, to labs, to hotlines for the uninsured. He said it was an incredibly frustrating process.

  • Beaumont: $100
  • Henry Ford: $120
  • Oak Park Urgent Care: $75

St. Mary Livonia said the cost for the day Gallegar went was $400.

Read: More Help Me Hank coverage


About the Authors:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.