Hair salon owner in the southern tier outraged after being sent an $800 bill for a COVID-19 test

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ALLEGANY COUNTY N.Y. (WIVB) – A local salon owner is ready to pull her hair out after getting stuck with an $800 bill for her COVID-19 test.

“I was told time and time again that it was supposed to be free testing, it was mandatory through the state in order to open up,” said Andrea Cole who owns Headlines Hair Studio in Bolivar New York.

When hair salons across the state first shut down, the state required these businesses to have their staff test negative for COVID-19 before they could re-open. This is almost a year ago.

“In Allegany County they had no facilities set up at that time so they advised me to go to Olean New York, to an Urgent Care facility to get the test there,” Cole said. “They had heard they were doing them for the hair stylist there.”

To her surprise, just this month she received two bills from a company in Massachusetts for getting tested.

“Just being beaten and battered, what do we get? Nothing. Bills,” she said.

If New Yorkers go to a test site run by New York State, there is never any charge for a test.  In addition, testing costs are covered by Medicaid for all eligible New Yorkers as ordered by a health care provider or by calling the NYS COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065.  More information on how and where to get tested is available here.  If you go to a test site operated by local governments, private companies including pharmacies and medical practices or not-for-profit organizations, you are advised to check with the testing site and your insurer in advance of being tested to confirm you will not be responsible for any fees associated with your test.”

Spokesperson from New York State

Cole says her health insurance in Anthem Blue Shield and that a representative told her the testing facility she went to is “out of network” and they will not cover the costs.

“A friend of mine also received a bill and she’s about 500 dollars in so far and her insurance company told her the exact same thing, that it wasn’t in network and it was the same exact facility,” Cole said.

After News 4 reached out to the health insurance company, a spokesperson sent us the following statement:

Anthem is waiving member cost share for medically necessary COVID-19 testing, both in- and out-of-network, in accordance with applicable law in light of the ongoing public health emergency. Due to federal privacy laws, we can’t discuss the specific circumstances of this case. We encourage anyone who has questions about coverage to call the number on the back of their member ID card.

Cole was told the insurance company is looking into her case and validating that she is a member.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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