After the Food and Drug Administration approved the first antibody tests for Covid-19 this month, states are looking to bring the new testing to the public as quickly as possible to see how many people have already been exposed to the virus.
Recent estimates show the number of asymptomatic Covid-19 patients may be as high as 25%. Because of that, antibody testing could be an important tool to see just how far the virus has spread. Unlike the PCR tests that have been approved in the previous weeks, antibody tests have fewer false negative results when determining if someone is currently infected, and can also detect past infections.
Los Angeles County and the University of Southern California have already started a testing pilot, offering antibody tests to 1,000 randomly selected people at six drive-up testing sites. In Minnesota, the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic are also offering tests. Other states have also began ramping up their efforts.
As it did with PCR tests, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is requiring private insurers to cover the bill. Some insurers have also agreed to waive out-of-pocket costs for any appointments related to testing — but there are loopholes — one patient faced a $2,000 bill from his insurer after he got tested at the emergency room, according to Kaiser Health News.
CMS issued its new guidance over the weekend. Specifically, the agency is requiring insurers to cover the cost of the test itself and “certain related items and services provided during a medical visit,” with no out-of-pocket costs. The coverage requirements apply to group and individual health insurance plans.
“Once broadly available, a COVID-19 antibody test could become a key element in fighting the pandemic by providing a more accurate measure of how many people have been infected and potentially enabling Americans to get back to work more quickly,” CMS wrote in a statement.
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