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COVID-19 tests and treatment should be free, but some clinics apparently charge

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A health care worker air dries her gloves after sanitizing her equipment while working at a walk-up COVID-19 testing site during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, July 17, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla. The mobile testing truck is operated by Aardvark Mobile Health, which has partnered with the Florida Division of Emergency Management. People getting tested are separated from nurses via a glass pane. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Coronavirus tests and doctor office visits—linked for COVID-19—should be free to most of us, according to the Utah Department of Health; but some clinics are apparently charging copays to people with insurance, and fees to those without.

“Should anybody in Utah have to pay for a coronavirus test?” 2News asked health department spokesman Tom Hudachko. He replied:

Most people in Utah, most people anywhere for that matter, should not have to pay. The vast majority of people should not have to pay a dime for a coronavirus test.“

He said the federal Families First and Coronavirus Response Act and “regulatory guidance” spell out that insurance companies must cover 100% of coronavirus testing and treatment.

In calls on Friday, it seemed copays were required at several clinics for office visits linked to COVID-19 tests. Persons at First Med Cottonwood Heights, Foothill Family Clinic South, and Granger Medical in West Valley all said so.

“There really shouldn’t be a reason why someone needs an office visit to be tested,” Hudachko said, adding that complaints about charges can be made to the state health department at this email address:

COVID19TestingCoverage@utah.gov.

2News reached out to all the above clinics to ask administrators about coronavirus charging policy—and Granger Medical CEO Dr. Mary Jane Pennington returned our call.

She said office visits are sometimes necessary when a person has symptoms, but it may not be because of coronavirus.

She said Granger is happy to refund coronavirus copayments if they were not charged properly, and has already done it with “more than a few.”

At University Health, which has tested thousands of people at drive-through locations, the U’s senior nursing director for community clinics said seeing a physician is not needed for a test.

“We actually have nurses out in our tent testing sites,” said Nikki Gilmore. “If you meet the criteria, then that RN can just place the order.”

If you don’t have insurance, at least two clinics said they charge more than a $100 total for the office visit and coronavirus test—-but the uninsured don’t have to pay that either.

You can apply quickly for a special Medicaid program to cover all coronavirus costs. You have to show you don’t have insurance, are a Utah resident, and U.S. citizen. The Utah Department of Health approves most of those applications same day.

You can apply at Medicaid.utah.gov.

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