CYNTHIA: About the end of February, close to March, they laid us off because of the pandemic. And during…
CAMP: She was surviving. And then this pandemic, by no fault of her own, took her job away, took away her ability to pay her rent.
CYNTHIA: They laid us off. They sent the letters, saying, sign up for employment.
CAMP: She struggled to apply for unemployment benefits.
CYNTHIA: So I signed up for unemployment. I didn’t get unemployment till four for five months.
CAMP: And in fact, through the better part of last summer, she did not even receive unemployment.
CYNTHIA: I’m trying to find a place to live. I can’t find nothing. I can’t find another job. I’ve been looking and looking. It’s been a whole year now – you know, going on a year. I still can’t find anything.
SHAPIRO: We’re not using Cynthia’s last name because she doesn’t want this story to affect her future ability to find a place to live. She’s 52 and lives in the St. Louis area with her two adult kids, who’ve also struggled to find work, and her 8-year-old grandson. They’re all in a house where she owes about a year of back rent. There is sewage backing up in the pipes, and the landlord wants them to leave.
CYNTHIA: And I know these people want us out of this house. I want to be out of here just as bad they want us out ’cause I’m not like that, not paying my bills and don’t want to pay. I want to pay.
The two got drive-through tests at Austin Emergency Center in Austin. …
The emergency room charged Mr. Harvey $199 in cash. Ms. LeBlanc, who paid with insurance, was charged $6,408.
“I assumed, like an idiot, it would be cheaper to use my insurance than pay cash right there,” Ms. LeBlanc said. “This is 32 times the cost of what my friend paid for the exact same thing.”
Ms. LeBlanc’s health insurer negotiated the total bill down to $1,128. The plan said she was responsible for $928 of that.
Two Friends in Texas Were Tested for Coronavirus. One Bill Was $199. The Other? $6,408.
It’s an example of the unpredictable way health prices can vary for patients who receive identical care.