From now-debunked Tweets about $3,000 coronavirus tests, to reports of test shortages, there's a lot of confusion around how much the coronavirus test costs and who can get it. Since testing became widely available in the spring, there have been questions about who should get tested and how much they'll expect to pay. While the U.S. government vowed to make testing free for everybody, including uninsured people, the New York Times reports that people who are "underinsured" — only partially covered by health insurance — have sometimes run into testing fees.
The U.S. healthcare system can be confusing at the best of times, but getting tested for COVID should be relatively straightforward, now eight months into the pandemic. Here's what to know about testing, its cost, and how vaccines might change things.
Does Health Insurance Cover The Coronavirus Test?
According to the Department of Health & Human Services, COVID-19 tests are available for free at health centers and some pharmacies, even for people without insurance, as a result of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Their website offers a state-by-state list of places that offer free coronavirus tests.
There's a lot of variation in how much tests actually cost; they can vary between $50 and $2,000, the bulk of which is meant to be covered by health insurance. NBC reports that most insurance companies began waiving testing and copay fees for COVID-related visits at the beginning of the pandemic, but that those rules may have changed in the months since. The New York Times reported on Nov. 13 that people receiving bills for coronavirus testing — up to 2.4% of tested people — most often got tested at hospitals or doctors' offices, and are getting billed for "use of the facility," not the test itself. Out-of-network COVID tests have been known to cost over $1,000, according to ProPublica, so it's advisable to make sure the facility you get tested at is in-network, as is the lab where the test is processed. The New York Times suggests getting tested at a public testing site to avoid any surprise bills, too.
Will I Get Paid If I Get Coronavirus & Can't Work?
On Mar. 25, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (The CARES Act) was signed by President Trump. NPR reported that the act would "direct payments to Americans, an expansion of unemployment insurance and billions in aid to large and small businesses." According to Forbes, the IRS will evaluate your latest tax return to determine if you qualify for a direct payment. The outlet adds that "those on the higher end of the income scale will be shut out of the program." CNBC reported in September that it's unclear what will happen at the end of 2020, when many elements of the act expire, but President-elect Biden has promised an expansive economic relief plan when he comes into office on Jan. 20.
Depending on your industry, there might already be a charitable relief effort that you can benefit from. The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation is currently raising funds to offer immediate financial support restaurant workers affected by coronavirus.
How Much Will A Vaccine Cost?
President-Elect Biden has committed to distributing COVID-19 vaccines for free. However, they're not going to be accessible to all Americans right away; Dr. Anthony Fauci told TODAY in November that he believes at-risk individuals will be able to get vaccinated by December. The rest of the population will likely wait until 2021.
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