WKYT Investigates: Cost of COVID-19 Testing

Drive-thru testing sites throughout the state aren’t charging patients. Who’s paying for the testing?
Drive-thru testing sites throughout the state aren’t charging patients. Who’s paying for the testing?
Published: Nov. 9, 2020 at 4:41 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - You can find COVID-19 testing in about every county in the Commonwealth.

The state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services sponsors testing in 18 counties.

Some cities, like Lexington, offer their own testing. Lexington’s free testing is with a company out of Mount Washington - Bobby Sturgeon’s company - Bluewater Diagnostic Laboratory.

“We’re working throughout the Commonwealth right now. We’re working with University of Louisville, we test their athletes, all their faculty. We test some of the other universities, Bellarmine University," notes Sturgeon. He says Bluewater Diagnostic does not bill the city of Lexington for its testing. “We’re still billing insurances. There’s never an out of pocket cost to an individual, but insurances will be charged.”

Part of the CARES Act guaranteed COVID-19 testing for all. The federal government created a COVID-19 Uninsured Program Portal for companies like Bluewater, to submit claims for reimbursement for testing. Testing facilities - not just in Lexington, and not just in Kentucky - can apply for reimbursement for COVID-19 tests.

“If a person has private insurance, their private insurance will pay. If they have Medicare or Medicaid they also pay as well. If a patient does not have insurance, we still will test them. Luckily the government has set up the federally uninsured plan that allows us to pay for those that don’t have insurance, then the federal government will reimburse us," says Sturgeon.

Even though Sturgeon’s company Bluewater, does not bill the city, there are some labs that bill the state. According to the state auditor’s office, the federal government through the CARES ACT gave Kentucky - and every other state - money for testing.

So what happens when the CARES funding runs out?

“We’re hearing that the funding is going to be replenished, so that’s encouraging. If not, then we’ll be working with our payers, we’ll be working with the groups that we work with to find out what’s the best way to make sure we still get these folks tested," explains Sturgeon.

The cost will likely fall on insurers, and that could eventually, cost the patient.

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