CityMD and some other privately run health care providers in New York City are starting to charge uninsured patients for COVID-19 tests and treatments after a key federal funding stream dried up on March 22.

Similar funds to cover the cost of administering COVID-19 vaccines to uninsured patients ran out on Tuesday. Although providers can’t charge patients for the shots, they can stop offering them, according to an analysis from KFF.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced in mid-March that it would stop accepting reimbursement claims for these COVID-19-related services “due to a lack of sufficient funds.” The money dried up as lawmakers in Congress reached an impasse last month over how much more COVID-19 aid to approve.

While negotiations are ongoing, city-run health sites will continue to provide COVID-19 services to all, regardless of insurance status, a spokesperson for the New York City health department confirmed Tuesday.

But Kamin Health, a small urgent care company with locations in Brooklyn and Queens, started charging people without insurance $75 for a rapid test and $125 for a PCR test on March 31.

“We're forced to do this literally to be able to pay our bills,” said Yosef Hershkop, a regional manager for the company.

New Yorkers getting COVID-19 care should ask upfront if there will be any out-of-pocket fees.

Hershkop estimated that Kamin lost “tens of thousands” of dollars just in the week-and-a-half between when HRSA stopped accepting reimbursement claims for COVID-19 visits and when Kamin started requiring patients to either pay out-of-pocket or provide their insurance information.

On Tuesday, Hershkop said that, for now, Kamin would continue to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to all patients but that he “can’t predict the future.”

Urgent care giant CityMD posted on its website on Monday that it would also start charging patients without insurance for COVID-19 related visits. It said that those who do have health insurance may also have to pay copays or other out-of-pocket costs, depending on their health plan. CityMD does not offer COVID-19 vaccines.

New Yorkers getting COVID-19 care should ask upfront if there will be any out-of-pocket fees.

GoHealth, the urgent care arm of Northwell Health, will charge uninsured patients between $120 and $195 for a PCR test, in addition to lab fees, according to ABC.

Adina Genn, a spokesperson for GoHealth, said that patients with insurance won’t be charged anything out-of-pocket “if required by current regulations.”

Screenshot of the CityMD website, taken on April 6, 2022

Screenshot of the CityMD website, taken on April 6, 2022

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Screenshot of the CityMD website, taken on April 6, 2022
Gothamist

During the ongoing public health emergency declared by the federal government, health plans are generally required to cover diagnostic COVID-19 tests without patient cost-sharing. But that could change if the state of emergency is allowed to expire on April 16.

CVS said Tuesday that it’s still providing free testing and vaccines to those who are uninsured, while holding out hope for new federal funding to come through.

“We’re fully confident the [Biden] administration and Congress will find a solution to help ensure people without insurance continue to have access to COVID-19 testing, vaccines and treatment,” Amy Thibault, a CVS spokesperson, said in a statement. “As demonstrated throughout the pandemic, we’re committed to working closely with federal and state officials to provide access to testing, treatments and vaccines to help support the communities we serve.”

On Monday, lawmakers in the U.S. Senate reached a deal to provide $10 billion to continue to cover COVID-19 supplies and services, Politico reported. The White House has urged Congress to move quickly on the spending bill even though it falls far short of the $22.5 billion President Joe Biden’s administration requested.

Consequences for the insured

Even though the HRSA funding that ran out was dedicated to covering COVID-19 care for people without insurance, health care providers say other patients could be affected by the shift as well.

Some of the privately-run mobile vans and other COVID-19 testing sites that have popped up during the pandemic haven’t bothered pushing very hard for patients’ insurance information. Sources working in health care say it’s likely because they knew they could get reimbursed by HRSA, regardless.

“It’s going to be those providers that go away” if federal funding isn’t restored, predicted Steve Moore, past president of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.

Moore added that some pharmacies and other health practices across the state had been billing HRSA for COVID-19 tests even if a patient had insurance because an insurance company was more likely to question whether a test was medically necessary.

Hershkop of Kamin Health said health insurers have started challenging more claims for COVID-19-related care lately — for instance, asking why a patient needs a test or why they’ve been getting tested so frequently.

It’s possible that some health care providers will simply make more of a point of requesting insurance information moving forward and conduct health questionnaires to justify tests or treatment.