Americans who don’t have health insurance will soon have to start paying for their own COVID-19 tests, even if they’re symptomatic after White Houe funding to help deal with the pandemic has run out and federal funding for treatment, testing, and vaccines will all but disappear. In the immediate term, it means that uninsured Americans are financially out of help if they — and when they — get sick with COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.
The bottom line: the federal government is no longer able to reimburse doctors who care for uninsured COVID-19 patients and are no longer able to reimburse testing “due to a lack of sufficient funds.”
The New York Times spoke to Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest testing companies in the country for everything from blood work to COVID-19 tests, who said patients who don’t have health insurance will now have to pay $125 dollars for a COVID-19 test, which works out to be $119 for the test, and a $6 physician fee, to use a PCR test. The publication noted that other testing services are charging up to $195 for a test — meaning that people without health insurance are on the hook for COVID-19 tests to the tune of hundreds of dollars per family member should they be exposed or even have symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes in 2020, around 31.2 million Americans are uninsured, and that number is likely to be slightly higher due to the pandemic. The United States Census Bureau cites 2020 data as well showing that 4.3 million children under the age of 19 are without insurance, too. These are families that will go without affordable, preventative treatments and could even go into medical debt if they get so sick with COVID-19 that they need treatment or if they need to get a PCR test for any reason.
While organizations that work to provide equitable access to health care, including COVID-19 testing and treatment, try and rally for additional funds, and advocates push for Congress to pass a standalone COVID-19 response funding package to the tune of $15 billion that was left out of the bipartisan spending package that kept the government open in early March, there is still one place families can get free COVID-19 testing, but it’s not as convenient — nor are rapid tests considered as accurate.
If you’re in need of COVID-19 testing, rapid tests can still be ordered for free to be delivered to your household from the White House website. “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 2 sets of 4 free at-home tests,” the site explains. “If you already ordered your first set, order a second today.” Still, when those run out, it’s hard to know what affordable recourse dozens of millions of Ameican families will have — unless Congress authorizes funding to help people weather the continuing pandemic.