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New Rule Raises Question: Who’ll Pay for All the Covid Tests?

With the Delta variant surging, many companies have decided that unvaccinated workers will need to get regular testing.

Spurred by rising Covid cases and the Delta variant’s spread, a wave of major employers announced the same rule for unvaccinated workers this week: They will need to submit to regular surveillance testing. The new requirement raises a thorny question: Who pays for those coronavirus tests?

Doctors typically charge about $50 to $100 for the tests, so the costs of weekly testing could add up quickly. Federal law requires insurers to fully cover the tests when ordered by a healthcare provider, but routine workplace tests are exempt from that provision.

Federal law requires insurers to fully cover coronavirus tests ordered by health care providers, meaning the doctor cannot apply a deductible or co-payment to the service.

In practice, insurers do often end up covering employer-mandated tests — it’s hard to tell from a doctor’s bill whether a workplace ordered the care — but they could start reviewing cases of patients who suddenly have claims every week for the same service.

This means unvaccinated workers who have to obtain their own coronavirus testing could have to pay their own fees. Some patients have faced surprise medical bills for coronavirus tests, which can range from a few dollars to over $1,000.

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