COVID-19 testing out-of-pocket costs leaving some stunned

BOSTON — With more and more people taking precautionary COVID-19 tests this holiday season, some are finding themselves stunned by out of pocket costs.

Massachusetts expects health insurers to foot the bill for a coronavirus test for three reasons: if you have symptoms, if you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive or you’re being admitted to a hospital or clinic.

The test is typically not covered if you’re getting it for travel, returning to work, starting school or day care or visiting someone in a hospital, rehab facility or nursing home.

“It can be very expensive for the average family,” said Dr. Brian Cruz, regional medical director of PhysicianOne Urgent Care. “It can range each time from $100 to $200. If you’re talking a family of four, this could be upwards of $800 or $1000 to travel.”

Cruz warns that the cost of a COVID-19 test is not a one size fits all and can vary depending on where you’re getting tested. “It is very confusing. I advise patients to check with their insurance before they get the test.”

Free testing is available at state-run “Stop the Spread” sites. However, long lines have been reported at those locations in recent weeks followed by longer wait times for results.

Other spots advertised as free may not be what they seem.

CVS is advertising testing at “no cost to you”, but those who aren’t symptomatic or getting a doctor mandated test still have to pay about $139.

Another confusing cost factor – the type of test you get.

Rapid antigen tests yield results in just 15 minutes. Cruz told Boston 25 News he’s seen some cases where insurance hasn’t covered those because they’re less accurate than the slower PCR test.

Cruz said the PCR test often comes with an additional cost for an independent lab to process it.

He expects PCR tests will become more widely available in a rapid form over the next few months with results in a few hours. He said some doctors’ offices are investing in machines to process those tests on site.

You can find a map of statewide testing sites here.

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