COVID-19 testing expenses have many factors

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By Blake Spurney

McPherson News-Ledger Staff

Determining the cost of a COVID-19 test can be quite complicated, depending on the facility, a patient’s insurance status and what kind of test is performed.

Shalei Shea with the McPherson County Health Department recommended for people to call a medical provider for pricing information.

“The cost may vary from each site, so calling to speak with that clinic will get them in the right direction,” she said. “We’ve been told by clinics that they will set up payment plans when needed, just like with other medical services that existed before COVID-19.”

The McPherson News-Ledger reached out last week to McPherson Hospital, Mercy Hospital in Moundridge and Lindsborg Community Hospital, among other locations, and didn’t hear back.

Shea said the health department mainly referred residents to their primary care physician, who may or may not perform a COVID-19 test. Those who don’t have a primary care physician can contact one of the three hospitals in the county.

Shea said local clinics were performing polymerase chain reaction tests. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment considers PCR tests the gold standard and only includes them in its data collection for each county.

Shea said some testing was done on site, but a majority of specimens were still being sent to private labs, including the state’s lab. She said the health department was receiving results between 24 and 72 hours after tests were performed, while some clinics are experiencing turnaround times of four to five days.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires staff to undergo weekly rapid antigen testing for COVID-19. Shea said anyone who tested positive with that test procedure would receive a follow-up test using the PCR method to confirm the result.

Shea said the county itself wasn’t incurring expenses related to COVID-19 testing. However, every county received money through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, and that money was divided out to facilities in the county to help with the cost of testing, if needed.

“Those that received funding can decide if they want to use that money to help with the expenses of testing,” she said.

Shea said the health department didn’t perform COVID-19 tests on a regular basis. The health department, however, does assist KDHE in performing tests when an outbreak occurs because a large number of people need to be tested to gauge the severity. In those instances, there is no charge for a test.