Pallone Requests Information from Companies on Potential COVID-19 Test Price Gouging
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today wrote to request information from ten companies and one trade association about their practices and prices for diagnostic and serological tests for COVID-19. The request comes after the Committee conducted an initial examination that has yielded disturbing information about the price of COVID-19 tests, and providers’ compliance with both the Families First Coronavirus Response (Families First) Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“I am concerned that some providers, including your company, may not be in compliance with these two laws that are critical to our efforts to combat this pandemic,” Pallone wrote to each of the ten companies. “Additionally, I am deeply concerned about reports that some patients are receiving surprise bills for hundreds and even thousands of dollars for out-of-network laboratory charges for COVID-19 testing. As a result, I am seeking further information about the price that your company is billing issuers and consumers for COVID-19 diagnostic and serological tests and related items and services.”
The Families First and CARES Acts included provisions to ensure the widest possible availability of COVID-19 testing at no cost to patients. The laws require individual and group market health plans to cover a broad range of diagnostic items and services in order to detect COVID-19 without any cost-sharing. The CARES Act also requires providers of COVID-19 tests to list the cash price for the service on a public website.
The Committee has been informed of troubling instances in which providers are charging up to $6,000 for one COVID-19 test. In a number of instances identified to the Committee, providers are charging prices for diagnostic tests to detect COVID-19 that range from $300 to $6,000. As of May 29, the Medicare payment rate for a COVID-19 diagnostic test is generally under $100 per test. Additionally, some providers’ public websites do not list the cash price for the COVID-19 test as required by the CARES Act. The Committee is also concerned by reports that consumers are receiving large balance bills for COVID-19 testing and related services.
“These examples we have received, if accurate, are unconscionable and clearly excessive,” Pallone continued in the letters to the companies. “Meanwhile, based on the Committee’s review, it appears that your company has failed to list the cash price for the COVID-19 diagnostic test on a public website, which is in violation of the CARES Act.”
Pallone requested the following information from the ten companies by July 10, 2020, including:
- All documents that describe the company’s policies regarding billing of issuers for all items and services related to diagnostic testing for the detection of COVID-19, and for items and services related to serological testing used to detect antibodies against COVID-19;
- All documents that describe the company’s policies regarding billing of individuals, including uninsured individuals and individuals receiving out-of-network care, for all items and services related to diagnostic testing for the detection of COVID-19, and for items and services related to serological testing used to detect antibodies against COVID-19;
- All available information on how much the company charges for a diagnostic test for the detection of COVID-19, and for serological testing used to detect antibodies against COVID-19; and
- Whether the company has received complaints from consumers billed for diagnostic tests or serological tests for COVID-19 and related items and services, and copies and records of all such consumer complaints, and any documentation of action the company took in response.
The letters sent to each of the companies and the association are below: