Public Health

Is COVID-19 Testing Free? How Much Does A COVID-19 Test Cost Without Insurance?

Khang T. Vuong, MHA19 Feb 2021

Quick Digest - Updated February 19th, 2020. 

  • There are currently two main categories of COVID-19 tests: diagnostic tests (PCR and antigen) and antibody tests. If you don't know which test to get, take a 1-minute quiz to find out
  • Most COVID-19 diagnostic tests cost between $100 and $200. However, you may need to pay additional fees to cover the cost of administering the test, the office visit, and other non-COVID 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 Advertised Cost to Get Rapid and PCR COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests at Urgent Care Clinics 

We called the top 23 urgent care facilities in the United States to gather data on the out-of-pocket cost of their COVID-19 diagnostic tests. 

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 care centers are advertising free testing, there have been instances where people have still received bills. See our section below for more information on additional fees. 

COVID-19 Diagnostic Test (administered at the clinic, sent to a lab to process, 99%+ sensitivity rate)

  • MedExpress - Billed to Labcorp and $119-$139 for visit
  • NextCare - $175 - $375
  • NextCare Texas - $275 - $450
  • FastMed - 249
  • CityMD* - Waived copay
  • CareNow* - Waived copay
  • GoHealth Urgent Care* - Waived copay
  • Doctors Care - 150
  • Fast Pace Urgent Care - 50
  • Centra Care - 179
  • Physicians Immediate Care - 175
  • Aurora Health Center Urgent Care* - Waived copay
  • Banner Urgent Care - 250
  • MD Now Urgent Care - 199
  • ProHEALTH Urgent Care - 150
  • Urgent Team - $50 + $120 for visit
  • ZoomCare - 100
  • Carolinas HealthCare Urgent Care - $67.50
  • ExpressCare Urgent Care - 260
  • Mira Membership - $0 At-Home test

COVID-19 Rapid Testing Cost (swabbed and processed at the clinic, ~56% sensitivity rate)

  • NextCare - $175 - $375
  • NextCare Texas - $275 - $450
  • FastMed - $249
  • CityMD* - Waived copay
  • CareNow* - $250
  • GoHealth Urgent Care* - $250
  • Doctors Care - $150
  • Fast Pace Urgent Care - $200
  • Centra Care - $179
  • Physicians Immediate Care - $250
  • Aurora Health Center Urgent Care* - Waived copay
  • ProHEALTH Urgent Care - $180
  • Urgent Team - $50 + $120 for visit
  • ExpressCare Urgent Care - $260

Sensitivity rates - Emory University Internal Medicine Cochrane Report

*See the section below regarding additional fees for testing 

How much do COVID-19 tests costs at hospitals & ERs in all 50 states

According to a report by Becker Hospital Review, Hospital Pricing Specialists, a research firm analyzed billing data from 2,862 hospitals to determine the average price of a nasal swab COVID-19 test. 

New Jersey has an average price of $302 for COVID-19 tests, whereas the lowest cost is in Maryland at $62.

An important thing to know is that while the cost to get tested at the hospital seems reasonable, most patients will receive a much larger bill due to additional procedures and facility charge that can cost up to $2100 per visit. 

  • Alaska - $201
  • Arizona - $141
  • Arkansas - $240
  • California - $143
  • Colorado - $146
  • Connecticut - $137
  • Delaware - $115
  • District Of Columbia - $249
  • Florida - $129
  • Georgia - $198
  • Hawaii - $226
  • Idaho - $125
  • Illinois - $188
  • Indiana - $176
  • Iowa - $143
  • Kansas - $147
  • Kentucky - $142
  • Louisiana - $174
  • Maine - $215
  • Maryland - $62
  • Massachusetts - $169
  • Michigan - $134
  • Minnesota - $175
  • Mississippi - $158
  • Missouri - $161
  • Montana  - $122
  • Nebraska - $173
  • Nevada - $111
  • New Hampshire - $190
  • New Jersey - $302
  • New Mexico - $172
  • New York - $175
  • North Carolina - $140
  • North Dakota - $141
  • Ohio - $161
  • Oklahoma - $174
  • Oregon - $141
  • Pennsylvania - $166
  • Rhode Island - $91
  • South Carolina - $113
  • South Dakota - $161
  • Tennessee - $140
  • Texas - $167
  • Utah - $149
  • Vermont - $169
  • Virginia - $122
  • Washington - $185
  • West Virginia - $161
  • Wisconsin - $151
  • Wyoming - $149

The cost of a COVID-19 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 Covid-19 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 400 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. 

The Real Cost of Covid-19 Testing

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 Covid-19 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)
  • Bloodwork
  • 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.

Sources:

Millennials are leaving health insurance carriers to join the new "CostCo" of healthcare.

"My insurance premiums went up 30% this year. My husband and I switched to Mira and never looked back," said Danna - Brooklyn, NYC