Will Coronavirus Testing Add to My Medical Debt?[yoast-breadcrumb]
Will Coronavirus Testing Add to My Medical Debt?
Getting tested for coronavirus is scary enough without worrying about how much it might cost. With millions of Americans already struggling with medical bills and debt, the last thing we need is more expenses piling up. But thanks to new laws passed in response to the pandemic, most people can now get tested for free. Here’s what you need to know about getting your COVID-19 test covered.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
This law, passed back in March 2020, says that all testing for COVID-19 must be covered by private insurance plans without any out-of-pocket costs. That means no co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. Testing is free whether it’s done at a doctor’s office, urgent care center, ER or even through a drive-thru testing site.
The law applies to all FDA-approved COVID tests, including the nasal swab and saliva tests. So if your doctor wants you to get tested because you have symptoms or were exposed, you shouldn’t be charged anything for that test. This is true even if the test comes back negative. Under this law, all medically-necessary COVID testing must be covered.
What If I’m Uninsured?
The Families First Act also set aside $1 billion for free coronavirus testing for uninsured Americans. This money goes to healthcare providers and clinics to reimburse them for doing COVID testing and treatment for uninsured patients.
So if you don’t have insurance, you should still be able to get tested for free at community health centers and other clinics that receive this funding. You may need to provide personal information like your Social Security number, income, and number of dependents to determine if you qualify.
Some employers and schools now require regular COVID testing even if you don’t have symptoms. This type of routine, preventive screening should also be covered without any out-of-pocket costs thanks to the Families First Act.
For example, if your job makes you get tested every week to access the workplace, your insurer has to cover those costs at 100%. The same goes for surveillance testing required by your university to live in the dorms or attend classes on campus.
What About Treatment?
While testing is free, any actual treatment and care you receive for COVID-19 could still come with costs. The Families First Act only covers the tests themselves, not any doctor visits, hospital stays, medications or other care you may need if you test positive.
Treatment costs will depend on your insurance plan’s benefits and network. With health insurance, you’ll likely pay any applicable copays or deductibles for in-network care. The total bills may be high though if you require extensive treatment or hospitalization.
If you’re uninsured, many hospitals do have charity care programs and financial assistance for low-income patients. Non-profit clinics may also offer free or discounted COVID care. It’s worth exploring all these options if you need treatment after testing positive.
Surprise Medical Bills
Even when going to an in-network facility, you can sometimes get hit with surprise out-of-network charges. This happens when a specific doctor who treats you hasn’t signed a contract with your insurer.
New federal protections taking effect in 2022 should help prevent surprise bills for COVID-19 treatment. Insurers will be required to cover out-of-network charges as if they were in-network, so you only pay normal copays and deductibles.
Thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, COVID testing should be free for most Americans with insurance. Uninsured individuals can also access free testing through community clinics and healthcare providers funded by the government.
While testing is covered, you could still face medical bills if you require in-depth treatment after testing positive. However, hospitals and non-profit clinics offer financial assistance programs that can help lower your costs.
The bottom line is that cost should not be a barrier to getting tested, especially with new strains of the virus continuing to spread. Take advantage of the free testing options available to protect yourself and others.