NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — If you’ve noticed a COVID-19 surcharge on a bill, you’re not alone.

This new fee popping up is meant to cover added safety costs for businesses in the pandemic, but it’s getting mixed reviews.

Dr. Todd Bertman is back to work at his Greenwich Village dental office since the pandemic hit, using special tools and the necessary personal protective equipment.

“We’re using this to minimize aerosols and destroy bacteria,” he said, along with “gowns, head gear, face shield, goggles.”

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Dr. Bertman says PPE is hard to get, and prices are inflated. So suiting up for each appointment?

“It amounts to about $25-30 extra more, just in PPE,” he said. “Insurance companies may include it in their fees. They said they would. We’ll see.”

Either way, he says he’s not charging patients extra, but an email from a different New York City dental office shows it’s adding a $20 fee to help cover the increased cost of PPE.

North Babylon resident William Broger says last month he got a similar note from his dentist.

“There’s no reason for a business like this, that is already mandating it or already has that as part of their protocol, to add the additional surcharge. So it kind of got me a little upset that they’re just trying to make an extra couple of dollars,” Broger said.

He was happy, too, when weeks later he received a second email.

“It explains that due to the social media backlash that they now have taken back the $15 per person surcharge,” he said.

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CBS2 reached out to several insurance companies.

Aetna said: “Aetna generally does not reimburse doctors and dentists for Personal Protection Equipment. PPE, like other disposable infection control supplies, is part of the cost of the underlying procedure.”

Empire BlueCross and BlueShield said: “Empire BlueCross and BlueShield is committed to ensuring access to COVID-19 testing and treatment during the ongoing pandemic. Through August 31, we are covering additional fees our in-network dentists are charging for personal protective equipment. Further, we are reminding dentists that they should not be billing our members above what Empire reimburses. For all other providers, Empire will continue to reimburse providers for PPE in accordance with our reimbursement policies and provider agreements, which should hold our members harmless from such costs.”

Surcharges aren’t just popping up at the dentist.

A Long Island salon sent out a note saying it may add a “sanitation surcharge” of up to $2 per visit.

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“Does the customer have to pay this charge?” DeAngeles asked.

“Yes the customer has to pay it, but at least it has to be disclosed in advance so they’re not surprised by it,” said personal finance expert Jordan Goodman of MoneyAnswers.com.

Goodman expects COVID-19 surcharges, even at restaurants, to be the new norm.

“I think it’s actually not a bad thing to support the local businesses to have protective equipment. Because the last thing you want to do is have this spread,” he said.

So next time you go out to eat, to a salon or dentist appointment, it can’t hurt to look for signage or ask if there will be an extra COVID-19-related charge.

Comments
  1. Martha C. Baker,DMD says:

    Contrary to the sentiment expressed by Mr Broger, this additional charge is NOT a money grab by dentists. This is an unprecedented time and the charges for the masks, gowns, face shields and air purifiers have skyrocketed, in some cases over ten times the cost before the virus. The required masks are a higher level, the gowns are new , the face shields are new and the time between patients is extended, so it cuts down on productivity. Insurance companies have not increased their fees to dentists in several years. In order to keep our staff and our patients safe If the insurance companies are not willing to share the cost of keeping their patients safe, the additional costs will have to be passed on. If the office you go to isn’t doing anything different then I would go to another office.

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