Colorado COVID-19 testing eligibility expands to all with symptoms

Coloradans may have free access to COVID-19 testing whether insured or not

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After months of limits on who can undergo testing to detect COVID-19 — along with test-supply shortages that also stood in Coloradans' way — the state announced that test capacity has grown to include the general public.

“If you take anything away from today's briefing, it's this: If you have symptoms of COVID-19, consult your medical provider and get tested,” Gov. Jared Polis said at a May 18 news conference.

The state made the policy change due to increased access to testing supplies, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Polis also encouraged health care workers, first responders and “essential” or critical workers who interact with the public to get tested even if they don't have symptoms. That includes grocery store employees, Polis said, and nursing home workers, according to a governor's office news release.

“In health care, in senior facilities and other areas … even if you're asymptomatic and if you have an hour or two, it'd be a smart thing to do,” Polis said.

More than 35 testing sites were open to the public across Colorado as of May 18, including locations supported by the state lab and ones operated by private providers. The state's map of testing sites is located at tinyurl.com/ColoradoTestingMap.

An appointment and doctor's note are required at some test sites, and who can be tested at each site varies, although most accept the general public with symptoms. Asymptomatic Coloradans can be tested at some locations. See the list and contact information at tinyurl.com/TestingLocationList.

The map does not include all private test locations, only those that have submitted their sites for inclusion in the map, according to the state's website.

For Coloradans who need to isolate or quarantine themselves in relation to a positive COVID-19 test, the state compiled resources available, including access to food and financial help. The list is located at stayathomeco.colorado.gov/get-help-now.

Does testing cost?

Because of federal legislation, people with any kind of private health insurance should have free access to the COVID-19 test — along with any doctor visits associated with getting the test — with no co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance charged, according to the state Division of Insurance.

Coloradans should check with their health care provider to be sure, though.

For Coloradans with Medicare, all of the costs are covered if a doctor orders a COVID-19 test, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Under Colorado's Medicaid program — Health First Colorado — and the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), all the costs of testing and the doctors' visits associated with getting tested are covered, according to the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.  

For the uninsured

Uninsured Coloradans should contact the state Health Care Policy Department at 303-866-2993 to ask about options. To apply for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus, visit coloradopeak.secure.force.com.

“Whether you have Medicaid or Medicare or private insurance or no health care insurance, cost is not a barrier — there is no copay, there is no out-of-pocket for testing,” Polis said at the May 18 news conference.

A government program to reimburse health care providers and facilities for testing and treatment of COVID-19 for uninsured individuals provides funds to eligible providers, according to Scott Kodish, a spokesman for the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Health care providers can request reimbursement and will be reimbursed generally at Medicare rates, subject to available funding, Kodish said. For patients served by those providers, there are no charges to uninsured patients.

The program covers testing and testing-related health care visits to an office; an urgent care or emergency room; a drive-up or drive-thru testing site; or via telehealth, Kodish said.

It also covers treatment for COVID-19 if necessary, according to Kodish.

But Kodish's agency has not released the names or number of health care providers that have applied for or received reimbursement through the program, he said.

Uninsured Coloradans should contact the testing location to be sure of potential costs.

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