U. S. funding for COVID-19 testing ending this week and in two weeks for vaccines; providers may require insurance or payment
by BRIAN NADIG
The federal free COVID-19 testing program is scheduled to end starting Wednesday, March 23, and two weeks later vaccine providers will no longer be eligible for reimbursement for the cost of vaccination from the federal government.
Congress recently decided against a new allocation of funds for testing and vaccination, and providers can now require health insurance or an out-of-pocket payment for testing. The costs for COVID-19 tests typically run between $100 and $200 for rapid tests and between $200 and $300 for PCR tests.
“We got some very unfortunate news on (March 15), Human Resources and Services Administration has officially run out of funds to help support the ‘Free’ COVID vaccinations and now testing. They have given all health care providers a seven days notice of this change. It’s truly unfortunate, especially at a time when China has a massive uptick in COVID cases, now spreading in Europe which could very possibly happen here in the U.S. as well as in Chicago,” said Jamie Tountas, chief strategy and marketing officer at Mobilevax.
“For the past year and half Mobilevax has had the honor of winning RFPs with the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois as being their vaccine provider. During this time, we have vaccinated over 100k people and counting every day,” Tountas said.
The federal government could reverse course on the issue, but one of the concerns is that the program may not be back in place by the time there is another surge in cases, Tountas said. She added that hopefully the high vaccination rate in Illinois, with 76.2 percent receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, will reduce the impact of a possible surge.
“I had a call (last week) with Norwood Park and Portage Park community leaders and partners. They were eager to set up some COVID-19 vaccine and testing clinics in April. Due to this issue of no more government funding past March at these events we will be forced to ask each patient for either Insurance/Medicare or must pay out of pocket cost,” Tountas said.
The company may cover the costs at some events, such has as farmers’ markets, in underserved communities, Tountas said. Vaccinations can cost about $40, she said.
Some COVID-19 treatments also will not be covered by the federal program, Tountas said.
It is not clear if vaccine providers actually can turn away those who cannot pay or have no insurance. The HRSA Web site states that providers must continue to provide vaccinations “at no out-of-pocket cost to recipients” in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules, although reimbursement to the provider will not be available after April 5.