Need to get tested for coronavirus? Here’s what it will cost you in South Dakota

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Clarification: Sanford Health previously told the Argus Leader a COVID-19 test resulted in a $140 bill for uninsured patients, but Friday said it is not billing any patients getting tested.

South Dakotans with health insurance who get tested for the novel coronavirus hitting the country might never see a bill.

But for those who self-insure or go without, the cost could be hundreds of dollars, depending on where the COVID-19 swab is done.

The Argus Leader this week requested from the three healthcare systems in South Dakota — the state health office, Sanford Health and Avera Health — that are conducting the most COVID-19 testing how much each is charging for taking a sample, analyzing it and reporting the results back to the patients.

South Dakota Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon told the Argus Leader earlier this week that COVID-19 tests taken in state health facilities are coming with no charge to the patient. That’s because the costs of those tests are being taken care of with the support of the federal government and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.

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“There are no fees associated with the cost of testing to the patient,” she said. 

She couldn’t speak for Sanford Health or Avera Health, and directed pricing inquiries to those organizations, but said no one should be billed for COVID-19 testing across South Dakota.

“Tests should be provided to patients at no cost to them,” Malsam-Rysdon said.

Last month, President Trump signed legislation dictating that all testing of Americans for coronavirus during the pandemic would be done at no cost to the individual patient. But it’s unclear how that’s being enacted at the local level.

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While Sanford officials say they aren’t billing patients, that’s not the case for those without insurance getting tested at Avera. 

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Individuals not covered by insurance or government health programs are getting billed at Avera, media relations staff confirmed in an email to the Argus Leader Wednesday, but insurance providers are covering 100% of the costs for those who are insured.

Someone tested Avera that doesn’t qualify for assistance or have insurance will see a $300 bill.

Jay Gravholt, media relations director at Avera, said those who “self-pay” are eligible for a 50% discount.

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“Additionally, patients may apply for Avera’s charity care program if they do not have the ability to pay,” he said. “No one who is experiencing symptoms will be turned away because of their inability to pay for the test.”

Those seeking a COVID-19 test are reminded they need to call their healthcare provider to set up an appointment and not to show up at a testing facility unannounced.

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