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What's pricing for COVID-19 testing and treatment?

What's pricing for COVID-19 testing and treatment?
By Gregory Wu
Worried that you may have had or current have COVID-19? Think it’s too expensive to get tested? Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, all COVID-19 testing is offered free of charge in the United States

COST OF COVID-19 TESTING:

Worried that you may have had or current have COVID-19? Think it’s too expensive to get tested? Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, all COVID-19 testing is offered free of charge in the United States, even for uninsured patients. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, also known as the novel coronavirus. According to the New York Times, more than 6.61 million cases in the US have been reported, with 770,000 cases coming from California.

For insured patients, private insurers (Medicare, Medicard, etc.) are required to cover these costs with no cost-sharing, as long as the test is deemed “medically-appropriate.” There is also no limit on the number of COVID-19 tests that you can get. However, the law does not require routine testing to be covered if it’s ordered by your employer or other institution. Testing is available at health centers and select pharmacies like CVS or Rite Aid.

Could you have a copay or deductible?
You should have no copay or deductible for a medical necessary test.

COST OF COVID-19 TREATMENT:

For uninsured patients, the cost of treatment is covered by the CARES Act. However, be aware that if you do not have COVID-19, you could end up with a large bill. Get tested early. It’s free, and if you have COVID-19, it’s covered.

For insured patients, the cost of treatment depends on the details of your plan, and how severe your hospitalization is. A study by Avalere Health in June found that the average cost to treat a COVID-19 patient was $23,489, “with an average of nine days in the hospital.” As of September 20, the cumulative hospitalization rate is 170.4 per 100,000 people.

COVID-19 VS THE FLU:

COVID-19 and the flu share many symptoms, including: fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, congestion, sore throat, and headache. The major difference is that COVID-19 can cause a change in or loss of taste/smell. COVID-19 may also take longer to develop symptoms than the flu, and those infected may be contagious for a greater stretch of time.

Another big difference is the cost of testing. Flu tests can cost anywhere from $20 to several hundreds of dollars, while COVID-19 tests are covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and CARES Act.

WHEN TO GET TESTED:

The CDC recommends three categories of people to get tested:

  • People who are experiencing symptoms

  • People who have had close contact with an infected person (defined as within 6 ft for 15+ mins)

  • People asked to get tested by their healthcare provider or local/state health department
  • Additionally, COVID-19 testing is divided into two main categories: diagnostic tests and antibody tests. Most people take the first type, which checks for active infection at the time of testing. On the other hand, antibody test checks your blood for antibodies, which would be there if you’ve already been infected with COVID-19 before. Thus, antibody tests shouldn’t be used to test for current infection, or for people that have symptoms.

    Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and CARES Act, both diagnostic and antibody tests should be free of charge, regardless of insurance plan.

    COVID-19 VACCINE PROGRESS:

    Currently, there are 9 vaccines in Phase III, and 5 vaccines approved for early or limited use.

    How much might it cost?
    Although no vaccines have been approved yet for full use, NPR has reported that “some clues about pricing are starting to emerge,” stating that Moderna, one of the companies in Phase III, “has already made deals at between $32 and $37 per dose of its experimental coronavirus vaccine in agreements with some foreign countries.” The Trump Administration has also been making agreements with specific companies, and these prices have varied between $4 and $20 per dose. It’s also worth noting that two doses will be required for the Moderna vaccine to protect against COVID-19.