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How much will a COVID-19 test cost you?

Why some people get billed for hundreds of dollars
Posted at 10:07 AM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 10:58:10-04

With President Trump testing positive for COVID-19, you might be thinking it's time to get a test yourself for peace of mind.

But what should it cost? And will you be hit with extra charges?

The best way to get a guaranteed no-cost COVID-19 test is to get one at a local pop-up test site that provides testing for free. Those can have long waits, however, and many people opt for their doctor's office or urgent care.

The New York Times says a disturbing number of these people are getting hit with surprise COVID-19 test bill.

Horror stories of huge bills

Laurie Delgatto Whitten received the typical nasal swab test over the summer.

Her bill was anything but typical: $3,165. She was charged more than three grand just to get one test that turned out negative.

"I mean, I think it's a total scam," she told our Scripps sister station, Fox47 in Lansing, MI.

Michelle Johnson, a healthcare advocate, worries that stories like Delgatto's will deter others from getting tested.

"If people understand it's going to cost money to get a test, they won't do it," Johnson said.

Patient advocates say you need to be especially careful getting a COVID-19 test at a hospital or hospital-connected urgent care facility.

That's because although the test itself may be covered, the facility may have fees that are not.

Quest Diagnostics says that, without insurance, a test itself should cost around $100. With insurance, the test is often free. (Quest also offers a self-test for $120)

The problem, the New York Times says, is that some patients are hit with secondary doctor fees or facility fees at an urgent care clinic or hospital.

How to avoid surprise bills

The Times report lists some possible solutions.

  • When you go in for your test, ask if there are any secondary or "facility" charges.
  • Make sure they send just one bill to your insurer, not two.
  • Don't let them test you for anything else, or fees can escalate.

One way to guarantee no charges is to find a free pop-up testing site.

In the Cincinnati area, check with the Ohio Department of Health or Kentucky Cabinet of Health for dates and locations so you don't waste your money.


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