Hospitals charging hundreds more than average $159 for COVID-19 tests

Medicare claims data show some hospitals are charging up to $650 for COVID-19 tests that cost less than $50 to do, according to a Hospital Pricing Specialists analysis cited by Kaiser Health News.

More than 421 million COVID-19 tests have been performed in the U.S., and the range that large health systems are charging per test is wide. The national average is $159 for a diagnostic test, but some are charging $20 for the tests, while others are charging $1,419 per test, according to a national survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. A free-standing emergency department may charge more than $1,000 for a test.

For the most part, those charges are to insurance companies and not to individuals, and many hospitals follow Medicare's $100 rate for high volume tests, according to the report.

However, some experts are saying the practice of charging much more than the cost of the test is predatory. Ge Bai, PhD, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told Kaiser Health News that insurers "have no bargaining power in this game" because in some situations there are no price caps.

Read the full report here.


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