TL;DR – Some are chargeable, some are free on condition.
Global demand for COVID-19 testing kits surges as the numbers of reported COVID-19 cases increase rapidly in countries including South Korea, Japan, United States, and Italy.
Apart from those who have had close contact with someone infected with COVID-19, more and more people with cold or flu-like symptoms are also requesting to be tested.
Having said that, there are also instances whereby people avoid getting tested due to high testing costs.
As the cost of COVID-19 tests varies from country to country, below is a quick summary and comparison of how much the COVID-19 test costs in different countries.
A report in the Miami Herald earlier this month highlighted the case of a US resident who racked up a $3,270 (SGD $4,659) hospital bill after he checked into a hospital in Miami to get tested for COVID-19.
The Miami resident eventually found out that he was clear of the virus, but his entire hospital bill came up to $1,400 (SGD $1,990) even after insurance.
A spokesperson from the New York State Department of Public Health later clarified that the state pays for testing and that the claim made by the US resident is false.
However, despite the clarification, fears still loom as there could be other costs incurred which include doctor’s and emergency room fees. On top of that, additional costs are expected for those who are not subject to free testing but want to be examined.
According to CNN, the cost of the testing can be quite complicated as it would depend on what insurance the Americans have, where they seek care and what tests the doctor orders. Considering there are many people in the United States who do not have health insurance coverage, public health officials are increasingly worried that medical bills will discourage the poor and uninsured from getting medical care, should the virus spread.
Japan has drawn heavy criticism over the low number of people who have been tested for COVID-19 in Japan compared to its neighbouring countries.
While COVID-19 screening is now covered by Japan’s national insurance, however, according to report, getting the test may not be as easy as one would expect
To get tested, patients are required to contact their local public health centres to explain their symptoms and their travel history. And should it be decided that the patient requires a test, the test would then be conducted at a designated medical institution.
However, if a patient’s symptoms are deemed not too serious, the basic guidelines issued by the government are to rest at home and to monitor the progress of the symptoms.
In China, where COVID-19 first broke out, patients were found to have spent between 10,000 yuan (SGD $2,030) and 40,000 yuan (SGD $8,110) on hospitalization and medical treatment before being confirmed.
However, with COVID-19 being included in China’s health authority’s health care reimbursement policy, the COVID-19 test reportedly costs about 370 yuan (SGD $75) now.
Currently, patients with symptoms are required to pay 160,000 won (SGD $185) to undergo the COVID-19 test.
However, if the health authorities decide that a person should undergo the test, the test would then be free of charge.
Thai PBS reported that the charges one is expected to pay to be tested for COVID-19 infection vary from hospital to hospital, ranging from 3,000 Baht (SGD $132) to 14,000 baht (SGD $617).
However, those who qualify as high-risk and have had close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, or who have just returned from high-risk countries and who have developed symptoms, such as a fever, cough and runny nose, will not be charged if they report to state hospitals.
According to Vulcan Post, public hospitals provide Malaysians with free COVID-19 testing provided if they meet the following criteria:
- Criteria 1: Malaysians returning from China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Iran within the last 14 days, with symptoms like coughing, sore throat, fever, or breathing difficulties.
- Criteria 2: Malaysians who have been identified as a close contact of someone who has a confirmed COVID-19 case, someone who’s been living in the same household, travelling together, working together in a close office space, or meeting for more than 15 minutes.
- Criteria 3: Malaysians who went for tabligh in Sri Petaling and are displaying symptoms.
For those who do not meet the above criteria and therefore not eligible for free testing, there are alternative options for home testing which are provided by private hospitals. These will cost between RM700 (SGD $228) and RM950 (SGD $310).
On Mar 9, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that all visitors holding short-term visit passes who seek treatment for Covid-19 in Singapore will have to pay for their own treatment.
However, MOH will continue to waive Covid-19 testing fees for all short-term visit pass holders as part of its public health measures to identify and initiate contact tracing for confirmed cases.
The Government has also said that it will continue to pay for the testing fees and hospital bill in full for Singapore Residents and long-term pass holders who are admitted to public hospitals for COVID-19.
In other words, COVID-19 testing is currently free of charge in Singapore.