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Free COVID testing coming to an end, health districts work around federal changes

Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 7:48 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 8:18 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Starting next week, millions of uninsured Americans may have to start paying out of pocket for COVID tests and vaccines.

Federal funding for COVID relief efforts has dried up as Congress stalls to agree on additional funding to continue relief efforts, such as free COVID testing and treatments.

The move, or lack thereof, means fewer COVID testing options for those who are uninsured.

“My biggest concern is that [it] would create a barrier to folks being able to get tested if they need to be tested. So, that’s primarily reimbursement for our uninsured individuals,” Jessica Coughlin, an emergency planner with the Richmond-Henrico Health District, said.

Nearly 650,000 uninsured Virginians could face a high bill for COVID-19 testing - a key tool in measuring the impacts of the pandemic.

Without insurance, an evaluation and COVID test could cost $174 at Patient First or even closer to $200 at pharmacies like CVS.

However, some health districts like Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico are not being impacted by the lack of federal funding, therefore offering free testing at community events.

“Our staffing and supplies are not covered by the federal COVID-19 programs,” Coughlin said. “They are mostly paid for through just our regular budget - through tax dollars,” she said.

Coughlin said demand for testing has dropped, but the district is prepared to boost testing sites if COVID cases surge again. Now that free testing options are limited, the department is reaching out to other healthcare facilities to learn more about COVID test pricing.

“Then we will put them on the website so that patients can make the most informed decision possible as to where they should seek testing,” Coughlin said.

Wednesday, the White House launched a new website that the Biden Administration is calling a one-stop shop for COVID-19 relief. On the website, you can find covid testing locations in your area and order free at-home COVID test kits that can be shipped directly to your home.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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