Covid Testing in Mac county — what will it cost?

Chad Frey
One local hospital  has published a cash price for COVID-19 testing of more than $150. What someone may pay for the test is confusing.

It seemed like an easy enough question to get answered when posted to social media — how much would someone have to pay to get a COVID-19 test in McPherson County.

Afterall, at one point, the promise by politicians was made that the test would be free — and there is funding through the CARES act for testing.

It is, however, not that simple.

“The CARES act expanded the number of tests and services related to COVID that insurers were required to cover in order to prevent patients from having to pay for the test,” said Cyril Russell, director of marketing for McPherson Hospital “ Health providers and insurers are doing their best to interpret the policies related to this complicated process. At times, there are other health factors that require additional testing that would not be covered, so there is not a standard, simple answer to whether the test is ultimately no-cost to patients.”

The hospital is performing testing primarily through the Urgent Care Clinic at 823 N. Main.

And what someone may need to pay for a test is just unclear.

“What patients pay out of pocket is determined by a variety of factors and is difficult to narrow down to a simple answer,” Russel said .

The answers from Larry Van Der Wege, administrator at Lindsborg Community Hospital, sounded much the same — but he did offer one bit of clarity.

“One question is, what if they do not have insurance? We do have a cash price, if someone wants to pay out of pocket. $152.46 is the cash price,” Van Der Wege said.

That price is good for the COVID-19 test, only. And, even that comes with a caveat.

“The government also has a program to apply for covid coverage. If someone comes to our clinic for COVID treatment they can apply for government coverage for that only,” Van Der Wege said. “We have had people that have fallen into that and we have received reimbursement for that. It is for that episode of care, they are not suddenly on medicare or medicare after that”

Lindsborg Community Hospital accepted CARES act funds designated for testing — and that means the hospital can not charge copays for COVID-19 testing.

For those who present with symptoms and meet the definition of a person under investigation, they could get tested and not incur a bill for testing — that means their test results would be determined by the state lab.

But those wanting a test without symptoms, there will likely be a bill as results will likely be coming from a private, for profit lab.

“There are a couple of difficult scenarios here. The reality is if the person meets the definition of a person under investigation by KDHE ... We can send a test to KDHE’s lab. If it goes to KDHE’s lab there is no charge to the person for that,” Van Der Wege said. “If they do not fall under that, then we send it to our reference lab which is a LabCorp. If we send it there, there is a charge for that.”

All of that, he said, will continue to evolve and change as health care providers, the government and the populace adapts to life with COVID-19 in the long term.

“It is hard to get our head wrapped around the new normal. We may be wearing masks for a long time. Our staff has done a good job of dealing with the changes.....changes are not happening quite as rapidly,” Van Der Wege said. .

And, he said, understanding that a negative test today doesn't mean a positive one will not come in the future.

“One of the things people should understand is just because you have been in contact with someone who potentially has covid it does not mean that you should just go out and get tested. .... There are times when that is appropriate. Just because you are exposed does not mean you should rush out and get tested because the intubation period is 14 days,” Van Der Wege said. "That test can come back negative, and it will not mean squat. Anytime in the next 13 days you can develop symptoms and be positive. That is about being smart consumers.”