Is COVID-19 Testing Free?

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This post was updated to reflect recent changes in government and insurers’ policies to help patients seeking COVID-19 testing. Please check regularly for updates. Last revised May 5, 2020.

We’ve all seen the headlines that announce “free testing” and “everyone can have a test.” While this is the main objective and these news reports are encouraging, it’s important that patients have all the information. So we’re breaking down how COVID-19 testing is being covered. Keep in mind that policies regarding your out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus testing and treatment are changing rapidly. We’re here to make sure you have all the necessary information and provide timely updates as they pertain to COVID-19 testing in Alabama.

Is testing free if I have insurance?

It should be. But, as with anything medical, there are many aspects.  A clinic visit to get a COVID-19 test typically has three parts:  (1) The co-pay for the office visit, (2) the cost of the office visit, (3) the cost of the COVID-19 test.

  • Co-Pay: We are currently waiving co-pays for COVID-19 testing visits.
  • Office Visit: During your office visit, if you are symptomatic or at risk, additional tests and evaluations such as a flu test may be performed in the clinic.  Different insurance providers deal with these in different ways.  Sometimes they make you pay toward your deducible for these.  In these cases, you may get a bill from MainStreet for aspects of the office visit that were not the COVID-19 test.
  • The COVID-19 test: We send your COVID-19 swab or blood to a lab company to be tested. The lab company will bill the insurance company for the COVID-19 test. Your insurance company (or Medicare / Medicaid) will then tell the lab company if you owe anything to the lab company. Both the viral swab test and the blood antibody test should be covered by your insurance provider. So, why might you still get a bill from the lab company?  Some labs are set up to ‘bundle’ tests into a panel of tests due to device configuration or other tests are needed for a full understanding of your situation. In both of these cases, you may get a bill from the lab company for the tests beyond the COVID-19 test.

The summary is that a COVID-19 test itself should be no charge to you if you have insurance. However, in order to get the test, other services may be performed that the insurance company wants you to pay for.

How do I know if I’m going to end up with a bill?

The best first step is to call your insurance company and understand your deductible and their policy for COVID-19 testing.   The COVID-19 test itself should be no charge to you. However, there are other services consumed in the course of getting a COVID test and these CAN generate bills for you.

If you receive a bill, you are to contact your insurance company. While we are waiving your up-front costs, it’s possible your insurance may still leave a balance to you upon processing the visit.  If this is the case and you have questions, please contact your insurance carrier.

The higher the deductible your health plan has, the more likely some aspect of getting a COVD-19 test will result in your insurance company saying you need to pay for some step in getting a test. While the test itself is covered, the insurance company may find other ways to require that you be billed.

Under the legislation recently passed by Congress, testing for the coronavirus is free. The costs of your visit to MainStreet to get tested should be covered as well. States are concerned that patients will hesitate because of the potential bills, so states are working with insurance companies to regulate the coverage of testing costs. In turn, these insurance companies are working with labs to waive any costs associated with the actual test.

Is testing free if I have Medicaid?

We do accept Medicaid and AllKids insurance. For more information on how Medicaid and AllKids is covering COVID-19 testing please visit Alabama Medicaid’s website. 

Is testing free if I have Medicare?

We do accept Medicare insurance. For more information on how Medicare is covering COVID-19 testing please visit Medicare’s website.

Is my test covered if I am a Veteran?

We do accept Tricare insurance. For more information on how Tricare is covering COVID-19 testing please visit Tricare’s website. Veterans who do not have Tricare insurance can find more information here.

How much is COVID-19 testing if I don’t have insurance?

For those who are uninsured, we have cut our Simple Self-Pay price to $60. This covers anything we can do for you in-clinic, but we send the COVID-19 test to a lab, who will bill separately for the cost of the test.  Currently, LabCorp is charging self-pay patients $100 for the viral swab test and $100 for the antibody blood test. If we do not have sufficient LabCorp swab collection kits on hand, then we use other swab testing providers who may charge significantly more than theses LabCorp prices.

The government is working on a special program for those who can be verified as uninsured. The government will reimburse MainStreet and the lab so that there should be no cost to you. We have enrolled in the program and will be launching this option for those that are uninsured shortly. More details will be available on our website shortly.

What if I need testing, but I don’t have any money?

We look forward to sharing more information about the HHS Uninsured Patient Program this week so that those without insurance or the means to pay for testing can be tested.

So how where to do I go to find the most updated information for my needs?

Below you can find information on your insurance company’s information as it pertains to COVID-19 testing. We accept most major insurance plans. However, it is the patient’s responsibility to bring along a valid government-issued ID with them to each visit. Subsequently, we require that all patients have a valid, non-expired ID present in order to be seen by a provider.