The Secret Fees You Could Get Slammed with After a Coronavirus Test

Some patients are finding high hidden charges after being tested for COVID-19.

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There are lots of questions circulating about COVID-19 tests. Where can you get one? Are at-home kits reliable? How soon will you get your results back? And how much does it really cost? While the federal government requires health insurance companies to fully cover the coronavirus test cost (and reimburses them for uninsured individuals), you might still have to break out your wallet if you want to know your status, depending on your state, lab, and healthcare provider. Although most tests end up being under $200, there are some secret fees you should watch out for so you don't get hit with an astronomical tab.

According to The New York Times, some people were asked to fork over thousands of dollars for their COVID-19 test. One emergency room in Austin, Texas charged $199 in cash for a test, whereas another patient was billed a whopping $6,408 and was told she still owed more than $1,000 after insurance. Another individual with the same provider got a drive-through coronavirus test. Afterward, he received a list of hidden chargers for unrelated screenings like herpes, enterovirus, and Legionnaires' disease.

Man getting COVID test
Shutterstock/JHDT Productions

This happens more often than you'd think. An earlier Times article reports that some Americans end up paying for screenings for the flu, other respiratory diseases, and STDs that are quietly tacked onto coronavirus orders. Patients then fork over money for these through deductibles or copayments.

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The good news is that some test providers have kept costs down almost across the board. About 87 percent of the more than 29,000 coronavirus test bills recorded by Castlight Health were priced at $100 or less, according to Advisory Board. So, you won't likely need to break the bank if you get swabbed for COVID-19.

Just be careful where you choose to get your test. For instance, the Minute Clinic at CVS advertises free tests—but with a catch. If you read the fine print, it says, "Patients should not have any out-of-pocket costs, but you should check with your health plan to confirm before scheduling a test."

The safest—and cheapest—bet is to find your nearest public testing site, where local government agencies foot the bill. And for more information about COVID-19 tests, check out The One Mistake You're Probably Making When It Comes to Coronavirus Testing.

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