Is your state doing enough COVID-19 testing?

U.S. PIRG visited the state health department websites for all 50 states to assess testing requirements and availability of testing sites. 

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Patricia Kelmar
Director, Health Care Campaigns

Author: Patricia Kelmar

Director, Health Care Campaigns

 

Started on staff: 1986-1991; 2020
B.A., magna cum laude, Boston College; J.D., high honors, George Washington University Law School

Patricia directs the health care campaign work for U.S. PIRG and provides support to our state offices for state-based health initiatives. Her prior roles include senior director of health policy with the National Consumers League, senior policy advisor at NJ Health Care Quality Institute, and consumer advocate at NJPIRG. She serves on the board of the Patient and Caregiver Engagement Advisory Group for the National Quality Forum. Patricia enjoys walks along the Potomac and sharing her love of books with her friends and family around the world.

Widespread and efficient testing is one of the most important tools we have to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, it isn’t always easy to find a testing site or understand what your state requires for testing. 

In late November 2020, U.S. PIRG visited the state health department websites for all 50 states to assess testing requirements and availability of testing sites. 

Findings: 

Fourteen states have no restrictions on who can get tested, according to their websites: (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming). The Arizona and Kansas websites do not have enough information to determine whether there are restrictions on who can get tests. 

Many states will only test those who have COVID-19 symptoms or who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

Some state websites recommend calling testing sites to check if there are certain restrictions or requirements for those who want to be tested at that site. 

Forty-seven states provide maps or links to find testing sites in their state. Hawaii, Idaho and Montana do not.

You can find the testing information for all 50 states in the dropdown menu on our testing resources page. 

Common questions about COVID testing

Can you get a COVID-19 test?

Check your state website to see what, if any, restrictions apply before you try to schedule a COVID-19 test. Even though a state may not limit who can get a test, some testing locations only test those with a physician order, those with symptoms or those who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Be sure to call the testing site before going to make sure you fit their requirements for testing.

What will you pay?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “no-cost testing is available at local health centers and select pharmacies” in every state. But that doesn’t mean all tests are free at all testing locations. Some state websites indicate there are restrictions on who can receive a free test. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act requires health insurers to cover 100 percent of the cost of the test when a health care provider determines it is “medically necessary.” Short term health plans and other limited benefits plans are exempted from these requirements. Therefore, we recommend that you contact both your insurance company and the testing site to confirm any costs associated with the test.

What if your state does not offer a list of testing sites? 

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration offers a searchable national health center data warehouse to find COVID-19 telehealth and testing sites. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), also links to pharmacies that offer testing services, including Walmart, Target, CVS, ETrueNorth, Walgreens, HealthMart, Quest, Rite Aid, and TOPCO. 

What should you do while you are waiting for your test results? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has clear recommendations on what you should do while you wait for your test results. Stay home and away from others, monitor your health, and write down who you have been around and where you have been recently. Be sure to answer any phone calls from the health department. These confidential calls are important to keeping you and others safe. 

Photo Credit: Colin D via Unsplash

Patricia Kelmar
Director, Health Care Campaigns

Author: Patricia Kelmar

Director, Health Care Campaigns

 

Started on staff: 1986-1991; 2020
B.A., magna cum laude, Boston College; J.D., high honors, George Washington University Law School

Patricia directs the health care campaign work for U.S. PIRG and provides support to our state offices for state-based health initiatives. Her prior roles include senior director of health policy with the National Consumers League, senior policy advisor at NJ Health Care Quality Institute, and consumer advocate at NJPIRG. She serves on the board of the Patient and Caregiver Engagement Advisory Group for the National Quality Forum. Patricia enjoys walks along the Potomac and sharing her love of books with her friends and family around the world.