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At least one health care provider in the state — Ascension Wisconsin — will not bill people without health insurance for testing or treatment of COVID-19.

The nonprofit also announced Wednesday that patients who are insured will not be billed for out-of-pocket expenses or co-pays related to coronavirus testing or treatment.

 “Our mission calls us to care for people who are most vulnerable,” Ascension Wisconsin said in a news release.

Most health insurers are covering the cost of testing, but Ascension Wisconsin is waiving the out-of-pocket expenses for treatment. Those expenses can run into the thousands of dollars if a patient is hospitalized.

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Ascension Wisconsin, the second-largest health system in Wisconsin, also said that applications for financial assistance will be valid for one year to reduce the burden of re-applying.

The announcement came after a Milwaukee alderman in the hardest-hit area for infections in the city called on Ascension St. Joseph to offer free coronavirus testing for the poor and uninsured.

In a letter to Ascension Health Care, Ald. Khalif Rainey said residents in his 7th aldermanic district have had the highest concentration of coronavirus cases in Milwaukee.

He also noted that Milwaukee Health Department officials determined the majority of cases in the city involved middle-aged African American men, as reported Tuesday by the Journal Sentinel.

St. Joe's is "the only source of medical care for many of my own constituents and serves some of Milwaukee’s poorest residents — many of whom lack adequate insurance,"  Rainey wrote. "This pandemic cannot — must not — become a death sentence for the poor and uninsured."

The health system also extended its payment grace period to four months. Patients who are unable to make their monthly payments should call the number listed on their billing statement to have a hold placed on their account. 

Patients who are unable to make their monthly payments should call their hospital or clinic to have a hold placed on their account, an Ascension spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Some insurers are also waiving deductibles for coronavirus testing and treatment.

Additional information on financial assistance at Ascension Wisconsin is available here.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters Alison Dirr and Meg Jones contributed to this report.

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