With recent COVID-19 spikes, the subject of testing – and more specifically who pays for it – has made its way back to the forefront of conversation.
As of July 8, the number of confirmed cases in the United States stands at more than 3 million. Here in North Carolina, that number is north of 77,000. But the debate over testing was never really about the tests themselves – we can all agree that anyone who needs a COVID-19 test should be able to get one. Rather, the debate is about the costs associated with testing and who bears those costs.
According to a study done in partnership with America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the costs to conduct testing are immense. In fact, the study found that diagnostic testing would cost between $6 billion and $25 billion a year, with antibody testing ranging between $5 billion and $19 billion annually.
The study divided costs for testing into three buckets: Medically necessary tests, public health tests, and occupational health tests.
- Medically necessary tests: Tests recommended by a doctor or medical professional for people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms.
- Public health tests: Tests designed for “broad-based public health surveillance and research, and not designed to test individuals who want to know if they were previously infected with COVID-19.”
- Occupational health testing: Tests to screen asymptomatic individuals or those with minor symptoms at employer or employer-directed sites. These are often conduced as part of return-to-work protocols.
As a consumer, you’re already paying for medically necessary tests through your insurance premiums. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, and go to the doctor for a test, your insurer will cover the test as a part of your coverage benefits. This is the role of insurance and why you have it.
But the public health and occupational tests? Those fall squarely under the $25 billion in tax dollars earmarked within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. If more money is needed for public health testing, it should come from the health organizations that our tax dollars already fund – not from insurance mandates that drive up premiums.
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 epidemic has caused massive harm to people’s health and our economy but mandating that insurance premiums cover public health or occupational testing will only intensify the damage.
Your insurance premiums shouldn’t go to pay tests your tax dollars are already funding. That’s double dipping – and it will drive up costs.
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