Newman Regional Health announced the re-opening of its drive-thru COVID-19 test collection site and respiratory clinic in anticipation of increased volume this fall and winter, earlier this week.
The clinic and testing site will reopen Aug. 3, with the drive-thru testing located at Entrance G — the old emergency department entrance — Monday - Friday by appointment only.
The respiratory clinic will be open 8 a.m. - noon and 1 - 6 p.m. Monday - Friday in its original location within Express Care at Entrance H, entering at the emergency department.
And with added testing capabilities, questions on the costs associated with COVID-19 testing have once again surfaced.
Early on in the pandemic, when scarce COVID testing was limited to those with serious symptoms or serious exposure, the government and insurers vowed that tests would be dispensed for free — with no copays, deductibles or other out-of-pocket expense — to ensure that those in need had ready access.
Still, confusion surrounding the fees for COVID-19 testing process has remained. Late last month, the Trump administration issued guidance saying insurers had to waive patient costs only for "medically appropriate" tests "primarily intended for individualized diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19."
Jennifer Millbern, public health services director for Lyon County Public Health, said there were no testing costs for tests collected and sent to Kansas Health and Environmental Labs.
"If the test is collected by Public Health and sent to KHEL to be ran, there is no cost to the patient," Millbern said, adding that she could not comment on the costs associated with hospital or private testing.
Newman Regional Health Chief Financial Officer Holly French said for insured patients, insurance is billed and the patient responsibility is $0 when ti comes to COVID testing. Uninsured and self-pay claims are billed to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) — a governmental agency. For those patients, the responsibility is $0.
"There is no cost to the patient when the care they receive results in a COVID test, or an order for a COVID test," French said, describing two scenarios in which a patient would be tested for COVID-19. In the first scenario, the patient presented to the emergency room, Express Care or a physician's office with symptoms, and gets tested for the disease. "Patient responsibility for that visit is $0 whether insured or uninsured [or] self-pay [because] the care that the patient received resulted in a COVID test."
In the second scenario, a patient presented to the ER, Express Care or a physician's office in distress seeking medical care. In this case, French said the patient was COVID-positive, but tested prior to their visit.
"The patient will be fully responsible for costs associated with the visit [but] this is only true for the insured," she said. "HRSA would still pay for the service provided in this scenario, even if they weren't tested at this visit. Their regulation is that they pay for COVID testing and related services."
French said patients who are tested prior to surgical procedures are also off the hook for testing costs. There is also no pricing difference for patients who are tested in-house and those whose swabs are sent to outside labs. The only difference, she said, is the in-house testing supply was reserved for patients who were being admitted to Newman Regional Health to protect staff and resources.
Those who are worried about any costs involved with testing should call their doctor to determine whether or not a COVID test is needed. As long as the criteria is met and the test has been ordered by a physician, there is no financial risk to the patient.
"For those seeking medical care, it is important to receive care sooner rather than later regardless of financial concerns," French said. "Patients diagnosed with COVID that come to the hospital earlier in their illness have better recovery if they receive care sooner rather than later. Do not wait to seek care. Newman Regional Health offers a financial assistance program if patients have high out-of-pocket expense after insurance or are self-pay/uninsured. This financial assistance program is income-based."
French recommended patients who have been tested for COVID-19 and have received a bill to check with the health care provider to make sure the claim was filed correctly.
COVID-19 tests continue to require a healthcare provider’s order and are only completed based on medical necessity, including pre-operative screening tests. Patients inquiring about a COVID-19 test are advised to call their provider’s office, visit Newman Regional Health Medical Partners Express Care during hours of operation, or the Emergency Department for emergent care.
Appointments are required in order to reduce the risk of disease spread. This allows patients to bypass the waiting room and be directed immediately to an exam room.
Patients seen in the respiratory clinic are experiencing signs and symptoms of cold, influenza, and other respiratory related illnesses and have used the ‘Call Before You Go’ process with their provider’s office to limit the potential disease spread in the community.
For questions related to Newman Regional Health's drive through test collection site or the respiratory clinic, call your primary care provider’s office.
Lyon County Public Health offers COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. - noon and 1 - 4 p.m. Monday - Thursday, and 9 a.m. - noon Friday. To schedule a test, call 620-208-3741.