Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) points out how much coronavirus testing could cost the average American and that the administration has the power to make it free.
PORTER: Dr. Kadlec for someone without insurance do you know the out-of-pocket cost of a complete blood count test?
KADLEC: No, ma'am, not immediately.
PORTER: Do you have a ballpark?
KADLEC: Out of--with a co-pay, ma'am?
PORTER: Know, the out-of-pocket just the typical cost?
KADLEC: I do not, ma'am.
PORTER: Okay. These CB--eight CBC typically cost about $36. What about the out-of-pocket cost for a complete metabolic panel?
KADLEC: Ma'am, I would have to pass on that as well.
PORTER: Do you have any idea? Do you want to take a ballpark?
KADLEC: I would say $75.
PORTER: Okay, $58.
KADLEC: Getting closer.
PORTER: How about flu a, the flu a test?
KADLEC: Ma'am, again I would take a guess at about may be $50.
PORTER: $43. Flu--this is like the price is right. Flu be?
KADLEC: Too high again. I would probably say $44.
PORTER: That is good. How about the cost of an ER visit for someone identified as high severity and threat?
KADLEC: I'm sorry, ma'am, what was the question again?
PORTER: How about the cost of an ER visit for somebody identified as having high severity or high threat?
KADLEC: High severity - might ma'am, that is probably about $3000, $5000.
PORTER: That is $1151.
KADLEC: Too high again.
PORTER: This all totals up to $1331. That is assuming they are kept in isolation. Isolation can add up for one family already $4000 and fear of these costs are going to keep people from being tested from getting the care they need and from keeping their communities safe. We live in a world where 40 percent of Americans cannot even afford a $400 unexpected expense. We live in a world where 33 percent of Americans put off medical treatment last year and we have a $1331 expense conservatively just for testing for the coronavirus.
Dr. Redfield do you want to know who has the coronavirus and who doesn't?
PORTER: Not just rich people but everybody who might have a virus?
REDFIELD: All of America.
PORTER: Dr. Redfield are you familiar with 42CRF71.31--30, excuse me? 42CRF71.30? The code of federal regulations that applies to the CDC, 42CFR71.30?
REDFIELD: I think if you could frame what it talks about that would help me. I'm--I don't--
PORTER: Okay. Dr. Redfield I--I am pretty well known as a questioner on the hill for not--not tipping my hand. I literally communicated to your office last night and received confirmation that I was going to be asking you about 42CFR71.30. This provides a director may authorize payment for the care and treatment of individual subject to medical exam quarantine, isolation and conditional release.
REDFIELD: I know about in my office to tell me that. I just didn't know the numbers ma'am, Congresswoman.
PORTER: Great, so you are familiar. Dr. Redfield will you commit to the CDC right now using that existing authority to pay for diagnostic testing free to every American regardless of insurance?
REDFIELD: Well, I can say that we are going to do everything to make sure everybody can get the care they need.
PORTER: Nope, not good enough. Reclaiming my time. Dr. Redfield you have the existing authority. Will you commit right now to using the authority that you have invested in you under law that provides in a public health emergency for testing, treatment, exam, isolation without cost? Yes or no?
REDFIELD: What I am going to say is I'm going to review it in detail with CDC and the department--
PORTER: Know. I am reclaiming my time. Dr. Redfield respectfully I wrote you this letter along with my colleagues Rosa DeLauro and Lauren Underwood. Congresswoman Underwood and Congresswoman DeLauro. We wrote you this letter one week ago. We quoted that existing authority to you and we laid out this problem. We ask for a response yesterday, the deadline and the time for delay has passed. Will you commit to invoking your existing authority under 42CFR71.30 to provide for coronavirus testing for every American regardless of insurance coverage?
REDFIELD: What I was trying to say is that CDC is working with HHS now to see how we operationalize that.
PORTER: Dr. Redfield I hope that that answer weighs heavily on you because it is going to weigh very heavily on me and on every American family.
REDFIELD: Our intent is to make sure every American gets the care and treatment they need at this time of this major epidemic and I'm currently working with HHS to see how the best operationalize it.
PORTER: Dr. Redfield you don't need to do any work to operationalize. You need to make a commitment to the American people so they come in to get tested. You can operationalize the payment structure tomorrow.
REDFIELD: I--I think you are an excellent questioner so my answer is yes.
PORTER: Excellent. Everybody in America here that. You are eligible to go get tested for coronavirus and have that covered regardless of insurance. Please if you believe you have the illness follow precautions, call first, do everything the CDC and Dr. Fauci God bless you for guiding Americans in this time. Do not let a lack of insurance force in this crisis.
I did the math: a full battery of coronavirus testing costs at minimum $1,331.— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) March 12, 2020
I also did the legal research: the Administration has the authority to make testing free for every American TODAY.
I secured a commitment from a high-level Trump official that they’d actually do it. pic.twitter.com/RmolCtmNbG