In a bitter ironic twist, she works as a supervisor at a 3M distribution center for N95 masks.
[Editor’s Note: This is about as perverse as things get in America’s so-called health (corporate wealth) care system. And, of course, 3M, which is making huge profits off government contracts, abandoned a worker that makes those profits possible. Disgusting. If you would like to express your displeasure to 3M, call: (888) 364-3577. Time for Medicare For All. — Mark L. Taylor]
By Sarah Varney
Carmen Quintero works an early shift as a supervisor at a 3M distribution warehouse that ships N95 masks to a nation under siege from the coronavirus. On March 23, she had developed a severe cough, and her voice, usually quick and enthusiastic, was barely a whisper.
A human resources staff member told Quintero she needed to go home.
“They told me I couldn’t come back until I was tested,” said Quintero, who was also told that she would need to document that she didn’t have the virus.
Her primary care doctor directed her to the nearest emergency room for testing because the practice had no coronavirus tests.
“None of them wanted to work with me. I just have to give the first payment on each bill so they wouldn’t send me to collections.”
The Corona Regional Medical Center is just around the corner from her house in Corona, Calif. They didn’t have any tests either but there a nurse tested her breathing and gave her a chest X-ray. For testing, the nurse told her to go the Riverside County’s public health department. There, a public health worker gave her an 800 number to call to schedule a test. The earliest the county could test her was April 7, more than two weeks later.
At the hospital, Quintero got a doctor’s note saying she should stay home from work for a week, and she was told to behave as if she had COVID-19, isolating herself from vulnerable household members. That was difficult — Quintero lives with her grandmother and her girlfriend’s parents — but she managed. No one else in her home got sick, and by the time April 7 came, she felt better and decided not to get the coronavirus test.
Then the bill for the ER visit came.
The patient: Carmen Quintero, 35, a supervisor at a 3M distribution warehouse who lives in Corona, Calif. She has an Anthem Blue Cross health insurance plan through her job with a $3,500 annual deductible.
Total bill: Corona Regional Medical Center billed Quintero $1,010, and Corona Regional Emergency Medical Associates billed an additional $830 for physician services — for her visit attempting to get a test. She also paid $50 at Walgreens to fill a prescription for an inhaler.
Service provider: Corona Regional Medical Center, a for-profit hospital owned by Universal Health Services, a company based in King of Prussia, Pa., which is one of the largest health care management companies in the nation. The hospital contracts with Corona Regional Emergency Medical Associates, part of Emergent Medical Associates.
Medical service: Quintero was evaluated in the emergency room for symptoms consistent with COVID-19: a wracking cough and difficulty breathing. She had a chest X-ray and a breathing treatment and was prescribed an inhaler.
What gives: Quintero knew she had a high-deductible plan, yet felt she had no choice but to follow her doctor’s advice and go to the nearest emergency room to get tested. She assumed she would get the test and not have to pay. Congress had passed the CARES Act just the week before, with its headlines saying coronavirus testing would be free.
That legislation turned out to be riddled with loopholes, especially for people like Quintero who needed and wanted a coronavirus test but couldn’t get one early in the pandemic.
Insurers do have to cover tests, but when a patient goes to see a doctor to be checked out for COVID-19 symptoms, if no test is ordered or administered, insurers aren’t required to cover the appointment without cost-sharing.
So Quintero was on the hook for the copay. …
Take a moment and call 3M at (888) 364-3577, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them THEY should pay for worker Carmen Quintero’s covid-19 test.
Here is the email I sent the 3M corporate headquaters. Feel free to copy and send:
I recently came across a story on the Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) website about one of your production workers, Carmen Quintero, who was told she needed to get a covid-19 test because she had a cough and was hoarse.
She did as she was told and got stuck with medical bills of $1,840.
Ironically, she supervises a production line making N95 face masks used to keep health care workers safe so they can keep all of us safe. You can’t make this stuff up! 3M is making millions off government contracts to make PPE, needs workers to make those profits and then when a worker is told she needs a test to keep things healthy in the plant — so 3M can continue making profits — she is stuck with the bill.
Mark L. Taylor
Essential workers like Carmen deserve protection, especially when their employer is raking in millions the workers’ labor makes possible producing protective equipment.
(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2020. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )