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Stimulus bill sends $1.25 billion to state; funds might cover testing costs

Stimulus bill sends $1.25 billion to state; funds might cover testing costs

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said last week that part of the $1.25 billion the state received in federal funding from the stimulus bill can help cover the cost of testing to patients.

Kim Malsam-Rysdon, state health secretary, said she wants to make sure people with symptoms can get tested without any charge.

"We don't want that to be a barrier, and the federal government has several options for people to make sure that testing is available regardless of your ability to pay," she said, noting people who don’t have insurance can have their COVID-19 tests processed at the state public health lab “at no cost to the patient.” 

Derrick Haskins, communications director for the state Department of Health, and Maggie Seidel, senior advisor and policy director to Noem, both said they don’t know what portion of the $1.25 billion in federal funding is set aside for testing, or how many patients it could cover. Seidel said the number will vary based on how many people need help paying for testing.

Haskins said individuals should visit with their providers about any concerns they have with paying for their test, and their provider can work with them on appropriate options for their individual situation.

Malsam-Rysdon also said clinics and “federally qualified health care centers” across the state can serve people on a sliding-fee scale.

Haskins said the “federally qualified health care centers” she refers to can be found at communityhealthcare.net, one of which is the Community Health Center of the Black Hills.

Tim Trithart, CEO of Community Health Center of the Black Hills, said the Center does not charge for COVID-19 testing.

West River patients can also see the “federally qualified health care centers” at Horizon Health Care in Martin, Faith, Mission, Mellette, Bison, Eagle Butte, Isabel and McIntosh as well as Rural Health Care centers in central South Dakota.

Monument Health’s diagnostic PCR test, which detects an active COVID-19 infection, costs $100. The cost of antibody testing, which detects past infections, is also $100 there.

Dan Daly, spokesperson for Monument Health, said anyone who wants an antibody test can get one and patients don’t need to meet any additional criteria for antibody testing besides waiting 10 days after symptoms or suspected exposure. It takes 10 days for the antibody to build up to detectable levels.

Black Hills Urgent Care charges $75 for antibody tests, which Dr. Chris Wenger, medical director, said can run through insurance, but he’s not sure how well insurance covers it.

Wenger also said he’s not sure how much the COVID-19 active infection test can cost patients, but he heard of a patient without insurance there whose bill ended up at $1,200.

“It’s a big gray area,” Wenger said.

Rapid City Medical Center said the costs for testing are handled by Sanford lab.

At Sanford, there is no out-of-pocket cost to patients for COVID-19 testing, said Shawn Neisteadt, media relations specialist. He said most insurance companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, have taken steps to ensure coverage and to eliminate patient costs for COVID-19 testing.

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