Covid test costs, a breaking news by the Corriere Canadese

di Priscilla Pajdo del October 2, 2020

TORONTO - “BREAKING NEW REPORT”…do I have your attention? Some may say the news agency is divided into two categories: breaking news and recycled news.

We are exposed to it everyday, whether it’s delivered to your front door, a pop-up alert on the phone, a news flash across the flatscreen or piped into our ears listening to a radio broadcast. Yesterday, while listening to the radio, I was sucked into the hype when I heard a “breaking news” style report.

The story related to how much a Covid-19 test costs the taxpayer. Before hearing the full report, I already knew this was a case of recycled news. If anyone else who had tuned in and follows the Corriere Canadese, both in print and online, they would already know the cost of a Covid-19 test.

Over three weeks ago, it appeared in the September 8 edition. Back then, the Corriere reported a cost of $47.50 for a Covid-19 swab kit and processing fee, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).

After retaining a copy of an invoice detailing the cost of a Covid-19 test at one public health institution in Ontario, I was shocked to see a fee of $496 per test.

One could only assume that all other input costs such as assessment, swabbing, PPE, etc., would inflate the cost to ten times that which the MOH uses for funding purposes.

In speaking with a representative from the institution at the time, they would not confirm the fee for the test and said, “no patient pays for a Covid-19 test”, after saying some invoices were issued in error.

Thankfully, the family who initially received the invoice did not have to pay out of pocket but rather, the fees were covered under the funding program available through the MOH.

Testing is a crucial tool in mitigating the spread of Covid-19, especially since about 40% of cases are asymptomatic, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

In recent weeks as Covid-19 cases increase across the province, in the span of two weeks, new daily infections more than doubled. Ontario reported 538 new cases compared to September 17 when 213 were recorded. This has prompted more people to get tested.

In order to alleviate the burden of waiting hours on end to be tested, about sixty pharmacies across the province are conducting Covid-19 tests. Locations that offer testing will be by appointment only and for people not exhibiting any symptoms.

What remains a puzzle is who assumes the cost in the long run? The government allegedly is reimbursing Ontario pharmacies $42 per Covid-19 test. This includes fees for patient assessment and specimen collection ($20 and $22 respectively).

We reached out to the MOH for comment but did not receive a response prior to going to print.

The cost range between $42 to $496+ is something to ponder along with who is responsible in setting those fees.

Since the start of the pandemic, Ontario has conducted over 3.9 million tests.

Good news for those getting tested - it will not cost them a cent.

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