About the author:
Khang T. Vuong received his Master of Healthcare Administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. He was named Forbes Healthcare 2021 30 under 30. Vuong spoke at Stanford Medicine X, HIMSS conference, and served as a Fellow at the Bon Secours Health System.
- There are currently two main categories of COVID-19 tests: diagnostic tests (PCR and antigen) and antibody tests.
- Most COVID-19 diagnostic tests cost between $100 and $200. However, you may need to pay additional fees to cover the cost to administer the test, the office visit, and other tests. These fees will depend on your health insurance status, the test you receive, your site of care, and your symptom severity.
- Although COVID-19 testing is supposed to be free, it often is not. This article aims to help you understand how much you might have to pay if you are required to pay out-of-pocket and where to get tested at the lowest cost.
The price of a COVID test depends on where you get tested
The CARES Act requires U.S private health insurance plans to cover COVID testing costs and The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is supposed to ensure free testing for those without insurance. However, we found that this is not always the case. Numerous patients have been charged anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for COVID testing.
There are multiple ways you can go about getting a COVID-19 test. The most important thing to know is that where you get your test matters. Below we outline the out-of-pocket costs for being tested for COVID-19 at different types of facilities.
- Urgent Care: The price of diagnostic testing at urgent care typically ranges from $100 to $200. However, it is possible to be charged additional fees to see a provider, administration of the test, or additional lab work. With these fees, you may be charged upwards of $600.
- At-Home Tests: Several companies are now offering FDA-approved self-administered at-home COVID tests. The out of pocket cost for an at-home COVID test is typically between $109 and $155.If you have insurance, your provider should cover COVID-19 tests and reimburse you for your test if it has been deemed medically appropriate.
- Community Health Centers: Many states have set up free testing at community health centers regardless of insurance. You can find community health centers near you by searching on the Internet for Community Health Centers in your city. Here is the link to find Community Health Centers in NYC.
- Emergency Room: Based on data collected by Peterson-KFF, the median price of a COVID test done at a hospital is $127 and most tests cost between $100 and $199. However, it is likely that you will be charged additional fees for being tested and treated in a hospital. These fees may exceed $3,100 in some circumstances.
- Mira: Mira is a new healthcare option for individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid and ACA subsidies. For only $25-$45/month, you get access to over 300 urgent care clinics, 1600 labs, and over 60,000 pharmacies nationwide. Mira helps members access a $0 at-home COVID-19 PCR test.
The bottom line: Since the costs of being tested at a hospital can be extremely high, you should avoid getting tested in the ER unless you have severe symptoms and need medical attention. If your symptoms are mild or you are concerned about exposure, a Mira membership, community health centers, at-home tests, or urgent care testing may be a better option for you.
Advertised Cost to Get Rapid and PCR Test at Urgent Care Clinics
We contacted the top 23 urgent care facilities in the United States to gather data on the price of their COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
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We found that the average reported cost of a PCR test is $137 and the average cost of a rapid antigen test is $189. Overall, most urgent care clinics offer diagnostic testing at a price between $100-$200.
In the chart below, we display the out-of-pocket price of PCR and rapid tests at several urgent care clinics. Note: the costs below were reported by each urgent care facility. While some urgent cares are advertising free testing, there have been instances where people have still received bills. See our section below for more information on additional fees.
|Urgent Care||Advertised PCR test cost||Advertised Rapid Test Cost|
|MedExpress||Billed to Labcorp and $119-$139 for visit||N/A|
|NextCare||$175 - $375||$175 - $375|
|NextCare Texas||$275 - $450||$275 - $450|
|GoHealth Urgent Care*||$0||$250|
|Fast Pace Urgent Care||$50||$200|
|Physicians Immediate Care||$175||$250|
|Aurora Health Center Urgent Care*||$0||$0|
|Banner Urgent Care||$250||N/A|
|MD Now Urgent Care||$199||N/A|
|ProHEALTH Urgent Care||$150||$180|
|Urgent Team||$50 + $120 for visit||$50 + $120 for visit|
|Carolinas HealthCare Urgent Care||$67.50||N/A|
|ExpressCare Urgent Care||$260||$260|
*See the section below regarding additional fees for testing
Patients receive surprise Covid-19 test bills- The Real Cost
While many urgent care clinics such as CityMD, GoHealth Urgent Care, CareNow, and Aurora Health Center Urgent Care advertise no cost PCR or rapid Covid tests, many patients still receive bills in the mail, oftentimes costing over hundreds of dollars.
People are voicing their concerns on Twitter:
Disclaimer: The images and individuals associated above are not affiliated with Mira and are public posts via Twitter.com.
The Reason Behind Surprise Bills? Urgent Care Clinics May Charge Additional Fees for Testing
In addition to the cost of your test, many urgent care clinics can charge additional administrative fees. These fees may cover:
- The cost of seeing a provider
- Facility fee (fee for seeking care)
- Additional diagnostic tests (flu test, strep test)
- COVID test being sent to an external lab
- Medications and other treatment
These additional fees coupled with the cost of your test can exceed $600. The amount you are charged largely depends on where you receive testing and the labs the urgent care center is using. LabCorp, for example, charges insurers $100 for its tests.
It is important to understand what may cause high fees for COVID-19 testing and steps you can take to avoid these fees. See our article for a guide on how to avoid surprise fees when seeking COVID-19 testing.
Factors that affect the cost of COVID tests
The cost of COVID-19 testing and treatment depends on several factors:
- Geographical Location: COVID-19 testing costs vary across the country. If testing costs at your closest testing center are high, check the cost at other testing sites in your region to determine the most inexpensive testing site near you.
- Symptom Severity: If you have severe symptoms, such as high fever, chest pain, and a cough, your provider may want to run additional diagnostic tests. Such tests raise the price of a visit to get tested.
What kind of COVID test should I get?
The type of COVID-19 test you receive is one of the most important determinants for how much you will pay out-of-pocket.
There are currently two categories of COVID-19 tests:
- Diagnostic tests: These tests indicate if you have an active COVID-19 infection. People who are showing symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID should receive diagnostic testing, which can come in the form of a PCR test or an antigen (rapid) test. Both tests require a nasal swab, and although results from antigen tests are quicker (less than an hour), PCR tests tend to be more accurate.
- Antibody tests: This test determines whether you have previously been infected with COVID-19. A blood sample is collected and tested for antibodies, which measure the body's immune response to the virus. Note that antibody tests do not indicate if you currently have COVID, but indicate if you were previously infected or exposed.
Regardless of your diagnostic or antibody test results, it is imperative to continue to wear a mask in public and practice social distancing.