America's Er - COVID-19 Testing Statement
THE WOODLANDS, TX -- Widespread community testing for coronavirus saves lives. Failing to test or limiting tests to only those at risk, as occurred in Italy, will result in the uncontrolled spread of the virus, place the healthcare system at risk of collapse, and end in larger numbers of COVID-19 related deaths – an outcome New York City is struggling to avoid. Experts agree comprehensive testing is key to controlling coronavirus because it creates a clearer picture of its spread and provides individuals, healthcare managers, and medical experts the vital information needed to establish accurate epidemiological trends necessary to contain and prevent further spread of this disease. More importantly, recent studies have confirmed asymptomatic, or mildly symptomatic (i.e., people without symptoms or who don’t appear sick) have unknowingly played an important role in the rapid spread of the virus further validating why widespread testing of the general population, as opposed to testing only patients exhibiting symptoms or those at risk, is critical to the overall health of the general public.
Based on those most recent studies, America’s ER (AER), a private medical practice based in the Woodlands without any resource or financial support from government agencies at any level, agrees with and supports widespread community testing for coronavirus and has created a drive-through COVID-19 testing program in Montgomery county designed to test as many of the general population in our area as possible. As long as we have the financial, administrative, and clinical resources to offer drive-through COVID-19 testing, AER will make every effort to open additional locations in other areas of the community to further assist disease surveillance. The goal – to help local, state and federal agencies in their efforts to get the clearest picture of COVID-19’s spread in our community thereby giving their districts the greatest chance of combating models that are currently predicting the uncontrolled community spread of the virus over the next few weeks and the grim outcomes that typically follow. This is a self-funded public service to our community and not an effort to bolster profits through fear-mongering and widespread testing of asymptomatic patients.
In response to statements that AER is not following CDC guidelines which limit testing to only those with symptoms or those at risk, we believe failing to test the general population sacrifices effective epidemiological mapping and analysis of COVID-19’s spread in order to preserve scarce government issued test collection kits. AER does not use government issued test collection kits and therefore is not bound by this aspect of CDC’s COVID-19 testing guidelines. As such, AER’s comprehensive COVID-19 testing program does not violate CDC testing guidelines. It is important to note, the testing methods and collection kits used in AER’s COVID-19 comprehensive test program have been approved by nationally recognized reference labs and boast the same accuracy as those used by the CDC and local health departments.
In response to the $150 charge for COVID-19 testing, there is a substantial misconception surrounding the President’s statements that all COVID-19 testing is free. AER is a small local medical practice that receives no government funding or subsidies to support any part of its COVID-19 testing program. The $150 charge per test covers only part of the cost of the test collection kit required to obtain a patient’s sample, the costs charged by commercial laboratories for genetic analysis of that acquired sample, the cost of office and medical supplies required to run the drive-through testing program, the wages of medical, administrative, and support staff required to process and obtain patient samples and submit it for testing, the hourly salaries of police officers and firefighters required for traffic control, the cost of required IT and the development of digital methods geared to minimize patient contact and reduce the risk of cross- contamination and spread to patients and staff, the cost associated with providing the all-weather drive through infrastructure at its testing location, and most importantly, the cost of Personal Protective Equipment (especially those in limited supply) taken from our own AER facilities to protect all staff conducting the drive-through collection process. None of these supplies, personnel, or infrastructure were either provided or subsidized by any governmental agency. The $150 charge merely covers the costs required to offer this largescale testing program to the public.
Finally, in response to the substantial negative comments relating to AER’s $150 charge for COVID-19 testing, most notably on various social media outlets, we believe this response was and continues to be driven by the misconception that instead of providing a public service, AER is attempting to capitalize on the community’s fear. Nothing could be further from the truth. While insurance companies have been legally directed to fully cover costs associated with COVID-19 testing in accordance with the CARES Act, it was only confirmed this week that COVID-19 testing will in fact be covered. Rather than waiting on insurance companies to solidify their methods on how to cover testing for their insureds, something that should have been established immediately following the President’s orders, AER felt that in the best interest of public health and to begin the process of accumulating epidemiological data on COVID-19s spread in our community, it was critical to begin widespread testing as quickly as possible despite knowing if and when insurance companies were going to cover the cost of testing. As a result, AER began offering a cash-only option for drive-through testing in Montgomery county with plans to start providing an insurance option once insurance industry’s position was formalized.
With that said, AER intends to manage testing charges in three ways. Those with active health insurance can use their insurance to pay for testing which may cover all associated costs of testing depending on their health insurance company’s position on reimbursement for COVID-19. There are no copays, deductibles, or co-insurance, so to the insured, testing will be “free” and not require any payment at the time of testing. For those with health insurance that cannot be verified at the time of testing, patients will be charged the $150 testing fee which will be refunded in full once payment is received from their insurance company. Those without health insurance, those whose insurance company has illegally chosen not cover COVID-19 testing, or those who do not wish to use their insurance may pay for their test with cash or major credit card at the time of testing.