Narrow free Covid test options for the uninsured

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Photo by Laura Glesby

The SalivaDirect Covid testing site on the Green, which serves a handful of uninsured patients every day.

After federal funding was cut, New Haven’s largest community health care provider and only hospital system began charging uninsured patients $75 for Covid-19 testing — leaving only one location in the city. city ​​able to provide quality PCR testing free of charge.

In mid-June, two weeks after federal pandemic relief funding expired, Yale New Haven Health (YNHH) stopped covering costs for uninsured patients, meaning patients would be billed $75 per PCR test.

The change in hospital system policy affected patients from other health care providers in the city. Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, which treats nearly 50,000 patients, announced that because it is sending Covid tests to YNHH laboratories, uninsured patients who receive a PCR Covid testing at the community health center will also be charged $75.

According to the Cornell Scott Hill website, 9% of patients at the health center were uninsured in 2021.

For patients without health insurance, one option is Yale’s SalivaDirect testing site, which administers saliva-based PCR testing from a shipping container on the New Haven Green.

SVC and RiteAid no longer offer free PCR testing people without health insurance at their New Haven premises; Walgreens may bill uninsured patients who do not demonstrate a medical necessity » for testing.

We never want any accusation to impede or create a barrier for patients accessing the care they need,” said YNHH Senior Vice President Vin Petrini, noting that mandated Covid testing for a medical procedure remains free and patients can request financial aid if the costs are prohibitive.

Federal support during the brunt of the pandemic has been a lifeline for many providers,” added Petrini. Since the start of the pandemic, we took a big financial hit, but we didn’t stop providing care.

US citizens are eligible to receive a third round of rapid Covid antigen tests from the federal government. Antigen tests are faster but less accurate that PCR tests, and are less susceptible to Covid cases that are early or asymptomatic but still infectious.

In early August, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reclassified New Haven from an area with high transmission rates of Covid to medium.”

On Wednesday afternoon, as commuters sprinted between bus stops and pedestrians paused at park benches, the SalivaDirect site on the New Haven Green remained a source of calm. A casual tester approached the shipping container, filled out a handful of forms, and spat into large tubes that would soon be transported to a lab.

A SalivaDirect staff member who identified himself as Yatina and who has worked at the testing site since June estimated that between one and three uninsured patients are tested at the site each day.

Yatina recently moved from Shanghai to New Haven, and she enjoyed meeting any type of person” who arrives at the test site – including immigrants like her.

When I meet people from my country, I can help them,” she said.

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