Credit: Emilie Johnson | Mustang News, Spring 2021

Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 2 to include comments received by Avellino Labs after publication. 

Update June 2, 2021:

Avellino Labs Spokesperson Angela Lapré told Mustang News students may have received billing statements if their insurance sent checks directly to the insurance holder rather than to Avellino, or if the insurance holder requested a statement be mailed to them.

Still, Lapré said students won’t have to pay out of pocket for the testing.

“We regret any confusion the mailed statements may have caused, and anyone who received a statement can contact their insurance company or call Avellino customer service at (800) 877-9236 for instructions on how to process their reimbursement check,” Lapré said in an email.

Original Story: 

Some students are receiving bills as much as $3,500 for Cal Poly’s mandatory COVID-19 testing through former contractor Avellino Labs despite the assurance of free testing. 

Cal Poly stopped working with Avellino Labs in February, switching to an in-house saliva testing lab instead. 

After looking into the billing upon a Mustang News request for comment, University Spokesperson Matt Lazier said the university was aware of the charges and is working with Avellino to address the issue. 

“The university was assured that no students would be billed for this service,” Lazier said in an email. 

On a Mustang News Instagram poll, 20% of people reported receiving a bill for COVID-19 testing at Cal Poly, or 54 people out of 268 respondents.

Art freshman Addie Moffatt received a $600 bill from Avellino, which was sent to her mailing address on campus while checks from her Blue Cross Blue Shield Association insurance to cover the bill were sent to her parents’ house.

“It was like, super out of the blue and obviously it had been talked about like it was free, so it was very confusing,” Moffatt said. 

Moffatt hasn’t been in contact with Cal Poly about her bill, nor has the university sent official communication to students about this situation. 

Because checks from her insurance are at her house, Moffatt said she’ll have to “figure this out” once she’s moved back home for summer. 

“It’s just very unclear communication with something that’s seemingly very important,” Moffatt said. 

Lazier said any student who receives a bill should contact Cal Poly Campus Health and Wellbeing for assistance. 

The charges from Avellino vary from student to student depending on the number of tests. Other students received bills ranging from $700 to $1,300 — in which case the insurance deducted only $19. 

For Mustang News reporter Kiana Hunziker, a bill from Avellino amounted to $3,551.52.

Hunziker said her insurance had also been sending her checks in anticipation of Avellino’s bill. 

“I told my insurance the testing was mandatory and so they would have to excuse the bill, but I still ended up receiving one,” Hunziker said. “It’s kind of a mess at the moment.” 

Electrical engineering sophomore Patrick Jackson said he received a bill for a little more than $600 due upon receipt, and he said he doesn’t think he’s received checks from his Blue Shield insurance to cover it. 

“If I’m going to be completely honest I saw it and it was so outrageous I thought it was a scam and I like, just left it on my desk,” Jackson said. 

The bills came in blank envelopes with no contact information or FAQ page directly from Avellino Labs. The only contact information is an email and phone number for Physicians Billing Office. 

“I immediately looked at that and I was like, maybe there’s some smart person who knows a ton of Cal Poly kids who are getting tested and was like, trying to do an insurance scam,” Jackson said. “That’s what I immediately thought, until I heard about it from other people.” 

Students didn’t need to list their insurance when signing up for Avellino Labs testing, and Jackson said it seems only the people who reported their insurance are now getting billed. 

Students who received bills use different insurance, from companies including Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente, Cigna and ConnectiCare. 

Cal Poly students experienced several other management issues from Avellino Labs during this school year. 

In January, 41 students were wrongfully put in the university’s COVID-19 isolation housing after a technician error at Avellino Labs gave the students false positive results.

Avellino’s portal system — where students could make appointments and see their test results — often had technical issues, and in at least one case, test results never showed up in the portal at all. 

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