Tips to avoid extra charges for a COVID-19 test

Contact: Jennifer Bowen
(334) 269-3550


Updated August 7, 2020 

If you’re in need of a COVID-19 test, the Alabama Department of Insurance has some tips to help you minimize the chance you’ll see a surprise charge afterward.

Federal law says you won’t be charged for a test that a doctor requests as medically necessary.

Before you get tested, call your primary care doctor. Get your doctor’s testing order and recommended testing site. That should ensure the test will be administered at no cost to you.

Ask the testing site if it has any charges or fees not covered by insurance.

Do not authorize non-COVID tests at the same time unless your doctor orders them.

Avoid the emergency room unless you are experiencing a true emergency. Emergency rooms usually charge more. 

If you aren’t paying with insurance, shop around online or by phone to compare testing charges and possible add-on fees.

Federal government guidance states that group health plans and insurers are not required to pay for COVID-19 tests that are ordered for surveillance purposes. Surveillance testing for returning to school or for workplace screening is not covered by insurance in most cases.

Surveillance tests are currently being required by most Alabama colleges and universities as a condition for a student’s return to campus, regardless of whether there are any symptoms or exposure. This is the best example of a surveillance test which will not be covered.  Additionally, some employers may require employees to be tested as part of their return to work protocols. With respect to testing for college students, the State of Alabama is providing testing to students free of charge through the GuideSafe program. The Alabama Department of Public Health has partnered with the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB), and is using Federal CARES Act funds allocated by Governor Ivey for this purpose. All students should receive an email explaining the program and the procedure to follow in order to be tested. However, for your information, a link to the GuideSafe website is provided HERE.

If you get a bill related to a COVID test, call your health plan to find out why. If you can’t resolve the issue with your plan, call the Consumer Services Division at 334-241-4141.

For more information on COVID testing in Alabama, call the Alabama COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-264-2256 for testing sites near you as well as hours of operation.