CARES should cover COVID test fees

COVID-19 testing is more than a matter of individuals safeguarding their own health and that of their families. It has become an important tool in limiting the disease’s spread.

Recognizing that, members of Congress included an important testing provision in the CARES Act approved earlier this year. It is that people can obtain COVID-19 tests without having to pay out of their own pockets.

Leave it to the federal bureaucracy — the swamp, if you prefer — to strangle a prudent initiative with red tape.

It seems that a “guidance” document involving three federal agencies has resulted in an increase in insurance company denials of coverage for coronavirus tests. Some people seeking them are being told they will have to pay at least part of the cost out of their own pockets.

Fifty-four members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., are determined to ensure that Americans can get COVID-19 testing without paying for it out of our own pockets. Their bipartisan action is necessary because “recent changes have created confusion regarding coverage requirements for COVID-19 testing,” according to McKinley.

Fortunately for the Tri-Lakes area, Adirondack Health does not charge people directly for COVID-19 tests. It does charge their insurance companies, which are not allowed to charge co-pays or deductibles for these tests. If you don’t have insurance, you won’t be charged. But many other health care providers do charge uninsured people to get tested.

Given the price tag for a COVID-19 test — which can hit $350 or more — that is a real barrier for many people. It is a reason for them to decide against being tested.

That, in turn, makes it more difficult for public health agencies to control the disease.

McKinley, Pascrell and 52 other lawmakers are seeking action by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to “clarify” the government’s position on testing. Again, it is that no one should have to pay out of their own pocket to learn whether they have COVID-19.

Azar should comply with the request immediately. At the same time, he may want to consider whether the bureaucrat(s) responsible for the confusing “guidance” ought to be replaced.


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