Testing for COVID-19 is available in Juneau, but in addition to the cost of the test itself, other costs need to be paid and steps to be taken before a person can be tested.
Because tests are limited, health care providers are using a screening process to ensure tests are getting to the people whose conditions may be symptoms of the coronavirus.
The state’s chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink has not said how many tests are available in the state, but has said testing people who are asymptomatic isn’t helpful because though they may be carrying the virus, the test may not pick it up.
“You may not have enough of the virus in you,” Zink said at a press conference Thursday. “Just because you test negative you may develop symptoms in the following days.”
In order to make sure tests are getting to the right people, patients must first receive a referral from their doctor and test providers are first screening for various strains of the flu before issue a test for COVID-19.
Katie Bausler, community relations director for Bartlett Regional Hospital, said tests could be free to certain patients if they meet the state criteria.
But that criteria is not immediately clear, the Department of Health and Social Services did not respond to multiple requests for comment over multiple days.
Out-of-pocket costs for testing and visits can be in the hundreds of dollars. Juneau Urgent Care is offering the test for $90, but that’s after two influenza tests at $68 a piece. Additionally, the cost of a first-time visit paying out of pocket is $416, according to an employee who spoke to the Empire.
The price of tests and visits differs depending on a person’s insurance.
Valley Medical Center is also providing tests after the same screening process but an employee told the Empire that the tests, which need to be done at a lab, will be sent to the state’s lab or the private lab company LabCorp which may bill the patient. LabCorp could not immediately be reached for comment.
Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corporation began drive-through screening at their Juneau offices Friday. According to a March 19 press release patients must first receive a referral from their doctor before being screened from their vehicle.
SEARHC could not immediately be reached for comment on the cost to patients for a screening.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced he was authorizing a $1 billion disaster relief fund, $75 million of which would be used to underwrite emergency health care facilities and personal protective equipment.
The Legislature has passed legislation to expand health care services and unemployment insurance, but so far no funds have been appropriated to address personal medical costs that may result from the COVID-19 outbreak.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or email@example.com.
Information on the coronavirus is available from websites for the City and Borough of Juneau, the State of Alaska at coronavirus.alaska.gov and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with flu-like symptoms are encouraged to contact their health care provider.