Coronavirus

COVID Is Here To Stay. Let's Stop Pretending Those 'Free Tests' Are Free.

The cost of 'free' tests is really going up when you look at insurance premiums.

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The consensus among scientists and lawmakers after two years of pandemic mayhem is that COVID-19 is officially endemic. That's good news for those of us looking to move on with our lives, but it also means it's time for society to make some changes. Let's start with doing away with free COVID tests. 

Free testing did help us get the pandemic under control, but now it's driving health care spending to new levels and ruining families' economic prospects as a result. After all, free tests aren't free—they're funded by taxes and fast-rising insurance premiums.

Under the two COVID-19 emergency measures passed by Congress, private insurers have been required to cover tests ordered by health care providers, with few exceptions. PCR tests cost over $100 without insurance, but generally, insurance companies pay much more for them. Cameron Kaplan from California reported that his insurance disbursed $1,140 a month for his daughter's weekly tests. Last year, my insurance paid more than $300 for a test. 

Contrast this with the fact that, in 2019, half of Americans spent less than $375 worth of health care services total. By just getting two PCR tests during the pandemic years, 50 percent of Americans are spending more on health care than they usually would in a year.

Just last month, the Department of Labor required private insurers to cover eight at-home tests per month. Being privately insured under this new rule means people are eligible for a new benefit worth $1,152 a year. All those tests could come without out-of-pocket costs, but insurance has to pay for them somehow. High insurance price hikes are likely to come at the worst possible time as the average yearly insurance premiums for families already reached $22,000 in 2021.

Critics were quick to point out that seniors were left out of this mandate, so a few weeks later, CMS mandated coverage of tests for Medicare beneficiaries.

Coverage mandates made some sense at the beginning of the pandemic, but they're now outdated and simply unaffordable, especially if COVID is here to stay.

Testing for endemic diseases such as strep throat and pneumonia allows health care providers to provide appropriate treatment. But testing for COVID-19 is fundamentally different since it served as a way to justify quarantining and contract tracing. If COVID is endemic and poses a low risk to the vast majority of the population, quarantining is obsolete, and testing is largely unnecessary. That also means schools, employers, and other social institutions should drop any testing mandates they have in place.

Admitting COVID-19 is endemic is also admitting that the vaccine wasn't the panacea that the polio or smallpox vaccines were in their time. At this point, it's common knowledge that while COVID-19 vaccines do shield those infected against severe illness and death, when it comes to transmission and infection, they're not all that helpful.

Choosing to get vaccinated is primarily choosing to protect your own health and avoid an expensive and dangerous stay in the hospital. In short, the vaccine acts as insurance, and the benefits accrue to the vaccinated person. It makes sense for those who find vaccination worth it to pay for it themselves.

Instead, taxpayers have been funding tests and vaccines, and it's been a boon to the health care industry. From the very beginning, testing labs tapped into contact tracing systems to drive up testing volume and revenue, because for each positive case, close contacts would get tested too. Curative, a health care startup that launched in January 2020, grossed an estimated $1 billion from taxpayers and patient premiums in just its first year from COVID testing and vaccine distribution. The testing industry's financial situation only improved after rapid tests—which have a high rate of false-positive results—became widespread. 

Then there's Pfizer, which went from being the least-trusted pharmaceutical company in the country to being a prestigious global brand amassing $7.8 billion in revenue from its COVID vaccine last year in the U.S. alone—a meteoric rise funded entirely by taxpayers. The company expects to earn $54 billion on COVID vaccines and treatments worldwide this year. That's more than its revenue on all products in 2019.

If COVID is here to stay, then it's time to give people control over how they handle it. If people want to get more vaccines and tests, let them pay for it. It should be up to patients whether or not they want to spend the money—not to the government, which has the power to force the hands of insurance companies, making everyone pay in the end.

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  1. Testing did nothing but promote fear and panic.

    1. When cheap and over-the-counter tests for COVID-19 exist, let the hypochondriac buy their own. Save the expensive ones for when an accurate diagnosis is needed.

      1. When would that be?

        1. Well, presumably before any treatments are administered. You just don't give horse dewormer to anyone who asks.

          1. I see you admit that’s the only treatment.

          2. No, you give it to anyone coming to the US from Afghanistan. Just in case.

            https://drrichswier.com/2021/09/05/cdc-endorses-use-of-ivermectin-for-afghan-refugees/

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          3. You do know the horse dewormer story was crap. There is a version of Ivermectin approved for use in humans for that was given to humans. Not the bogus nonsense you are spouting.

          4. Why not? Why does it even need to be prescription only?

            Alternative medicine has been a thing for a long time. It's often pretty goofy or downright stupid, but people have a right to seek treatments outside of the medical mainstream if they want to, no?

          5. And you are still coting horse dewormer like a good leftist.

          6. You mean one of the few drugs that safe during pregnancy?

    2. And we didn't even need testing for that. In Ohio, our experts told us to just assume everyone you come into contact with has the virus. Can't imagine any of them would ever say, "just assume every Muslim is a terrorist", but it was perfectly fine for them to tell people to view every neighbor as an absolute harm... you know, for the good of public health.

    3. Absolutely. The testing hysteria was just another tool in the fascist toolkit to drive the fear and masking theater. Based on what we know about the virus and its transmission mass testing is pointless.

    4. As some of us always said it would while Reason was pushing for it

    5. "Collecting data is fascism"

      1. Somewhat randomized testing to get data on the progress of the pandemic was good and appropriate early on. THough there should have been a lot more antibody testing and less PCR as that would have told us a lot more about how many have been actually infected enough to make a difference to immunity.
        Encouraging everyone to test frequently, or requiring tests for non-sick people to participate in ordinary activities is not. Especially at this point when there is zero chance of "stop the spread" working since it has already spread everywhere.

      2. You've literally dis.issed reams of data like the DMED database and dozens of studies lol.

  2. Yes, we are now in the endemic phase. COVID-19 is not going away, it's here to stay. We knew this pretty much from the start. The best strategy now is vaccinations. Eternal lockdowns are not the answer. Eternal mask mandates are not the answer. And continuous bleeding of the taxpayer is not the answer.

    PCR tests should be treated as any other lab test, funded the same way. And not doled as as routine. The time for emergency funding of testing is over.

    1. Vaccinations dont prevent you from getting infected or from spreading the disease. Even the manufacturers admit as much now.

      Why would you push them as part of a solution to dealing with an endemic disease?

      1. Because once you are vaccinated, the virus poses about as much risk to you as the flu. This makes the public health response much more able to be hands off and just let it spread, versus the situation in 2020, where it was one of the top 5 causes of death and represents a substantial percentage of hospitalizations (which in turn leaves less capacity for other patients).

        That being said, the only people it is really important to vaccinate are unvaccinated people 50+ who have not had COVID yet. That is likely to be <2% of the overall population, but is driving a majority of hospitalizations.

        1. I don't remember a lot of self-righteous nags telling everyone to avoid obesity, carcinogens, and other causes of heart disease and cancer so that heart disease and cancer patients didn't flood the hospitals.

          1. There are plenty of self righteous nags telling you to stop smoking/vaping, wear your seatbelt, get the flu shot, get cancer screening, etc. That being said, what gives the COVID nags more power is how suddenly it has onset. If we had always had a few million people end up in the hospital for COVID per year, the hospitals would be built to serve that need and we would go on with life. Pretty much like how we deal with flu and pneumonia (which put a surprisingly large number of people in the hospital every year, and for which we have vaccines, though not very good ones).

            Somehow, the obese have the world's greatest PR, such that it is now considered to be offensive to claim that obesity is unhealthy in many quarters. Weird, but again, it is an issue that sort of snuck up on us and hospitals were sized to deal with.

            If everyone thought that COVID was going to be putting millions into the hospital every year for the foreseeable future, we'd build hospitals to meet the increased demand and start ignoring the COVID scolds. However, as reinfection with COVID rarely results in a hospital stay, everyone realizes that the hospital rush is temporary and nobody wants to be the Peloton of hospital administrators.

      2. Those who are vaccinated are at least 10X less likely to die from Covid if they get it. Tons of data and studies show that.

        Vaccines are the ONLY thing the government should be pushing and expediting - but ultimately you should be free to make your own health care decisions.

    2. LOL we were in the endemic phase by the time we know what covid was.

      1. Maybe not everywhere. Italy and NYC probably were. And parts of China (I don't believe for a minute that they successfully contained it).

    3. CDC reported just over a month ago 79% of those getting Covid were vaccinated. You are on the Biden foolishness of relying on that alone and completely dropped the ball on therapeutics.

      1. They just can't admit they were ever wrong. They were so invested as morally superior.

      2. That's the irony of pushing all the testing. A lot of vaccinated people with mild symptoms or no symptoms - who should have just gone about their normal lives got put in the case count.

    4. The only worthwhile strategy is to convince people that it's OK to go back to their lives. It's all psychology at this point. Get the Branch Covidians to come out of hiding and accept that the world contains risk.

      1. No! Covid case rates must be 0.000000. There can be no risk when it comes to Covid. And any "unintended consequences" from the mitigation efforts either don't exist or they can be easily be fixed with government programs and money.

  3. The consensus among scientists and lawmakers after two years of pandemic mayhem is that COVID-19 is officially endemic.

    LOL. They're going to find out there is a significant portion of the population who will be unwilling to undrink their Kool-Aid. That's good news for favored pharmaceutical companies and test kit manufacturers and their investors, but likely terrible news for politicians (certainly some overlap there) who rely on normalcy to get back to a robust economy and, more importantly, a voter base willing to continue its support on Election Day.

    1. Exactly. Someday soon the politicians will be desperate to declare victory, but will Big Pharma and the media they bought let that happen?

      1. The big problem is that politicians are afraid of a "mission accomplished" moment, where they declare victory, just a variant to come roaring in. In fact, Biden pretty much had declared victory on July 4th, just to get slammed with Delta and Omicron I'm quick succession.

        Big Pharma has big fixed quantity contracts, such that they get paid regardless if any more people want the vaccine. They are hoping that it will become a regular shot, but the failure of Israel's second booster experiment likely puts a damper on that hope, regardless of what the politicians are out there saying.

  4. But the average idiot believes all kinds of things are or should be "free". Given the attention span and analytical skills of a puppy, especially when dealing with economics or math, plenty of people have no idea what a free thing costs them or others*.

    *I suppose some free-loaders might perceive that a thing might be sorta free if others are compelled to pay for it.

    1. IOW, "Tony."

      If you don't have any tax liability, then ever tax is SEP [someone else's problem] and every benefit is an entitlement. This covers about half the country at this point. For them there is no down side, at least not that they can perceive beyond their immediate wants. And the government exists to be a care taker and an enforcer [of others, of course].

    2. To many idiots not holding down a full time job.

      I was an idiot once too. Biggest eye opening experience ever was getting my first full time job and having to live on my own dime. Got more learning in one month than I did in four years of college.

      People who demands everything for free either don't work, or they pretend to work while spousy brings home the real paycheck.

      I don't decry some things being free. I have friends who literally cannot work due to severe disabilities. Let's save the dole for those who really and truly need it.

      1. I was an idiot once too.

        No evidence to show that has changed.

        1. He/him is definitely still a trust fund, pajamaed idiot

  5. As always, follow the money.

    1. Nothing is free if someone else is paying for it.

      And I recall from basic college economics that resources are limited and nothing is free. But then I, unlike AOC, didn't attend Boston University post millennium.

      1. They do teach real micro at Boston U, but that doesn't mean it penetrates any skulls. AOC knows better, she just consciously chooses to live in a fantasy land.

        1. "AOC knows better"

          Pretty ballsy claim their 'buck.

        2. "AOC knows better"

          Assumes facts not in evidence.

  6. Those "free" test kits started arriving in the mail last week. Now, get ready for a surge in "positive" tests as many more people have ready access to testing. Surely, that will call for more mandates from our Top.Men. as we need yet another two weeks to "stop the spread."

    1. The one good thing about home testing is that a lot less of the results get reported.

  7. wait until May though because I want to see The Cult and have to be tested to get into House of Blues

    1. Which House of Blues? I'm going to see Ministry in Boston soon and the last email I got said I needed either proof of vaccination or a test. Not both.

      1. Dallas. my proofs of vaccination end in the early 70s so I need a negative test for entry.

        1. I had to choose between getting jabbed or leaving a job I've had for over fifteen years. You can guess what I did.

          1. You can guess what I did.

            Lose a job you had for 15 yrs. 10 yrs. ago and then use getting jabbed as a pathetic excuse to establish your 'BOWF SIDEZ' bona fides in your own mind.

        2. Oh, and I was a big fan of The Cult back in the 80s. I bet it will be a great show. Almost jealous.

          1. ya I've seen them in the 80s 90s 00s and soon in May. don't know where they've been but it's been 20 years easy since they've been to Dallas. always a great show

      2. Uh oh. Don't go into the bathrooms if you're in Boston for that concert. Might hear sarcs latest meet up.

    2. I want to see The Cult

      I just want to vote them out of office.

      1. Brandon Removal Machine.

  8. Free testing did help us get the pandemic under control

    No, all it did was provide some more data (but not very useful data) for us to watch it unfold.

    1. I don't get those claims at all.

      When was the pandemic "under control"?
      And how did testing help that? Did it help somehow when I stayed home for a week after a co-worker tested positive because she was going on an international flight, but never got sick?
      All non-random testing should have stopped a long time ago. All it did was drive stupid panic over "cases".

  9. "COVID Is Here To Stay."

    Huh?

    Biden said he'd shut down the virus. There's no way he'd fail to deliver on a promise of that magnitude.

    #LibertariansForBiden

    1. No he said he'd "manage the hell out of it."

      And to date he certainly is keeping that promise. He's managed to keep it front and center, albeit only as an excuse to "do more."

  10. Free? They will just appear, no cost to produce, no cost to ship. It's like magic.

    "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait 'til it's free."
    P. J. O'Rourke

    1. Recent Yale study reflects a net savings for single-payer. Simplifying the methods used in billing while eliminating fraud by increasing penalties and enforcement is , or should be, a part of the process. I have also wanted to see doctors get a tax-free benefit for the first $100,000 they earn , perhaps tied to working under-served areas.

  11. This article feels an awful lot like terrorism.

  12. Pretending? I was forced to get one in Florida, within a narrow timeframe, or be booted off my flight. The fee was a mystery for 2 months until finally it turned out taxpayers had been robbed of $130 so I could be mandated. Elsewhere I am forced to stand in a block-long line with paperwork, get jabbed, and they tell me taxpayers have already been robbed for this and I cannot even find out for how much. Imagine if people had Yellow Fever vax reactions to this stuff!

  13. Are "mandate" and "diktat" synonyms?

  14. Don’t worry. “Free” tests, shots, and mask mandates will continue because COVID will never be endemic. There WILL be a new worse variant, and you WILL comply! All those test and vax manufacturers are not going to give up that easily.

    1. 9 letters of the Greek alphabet left after Omicron, although I don't know which ones our Chinese masters approve of.

  15. Has anyone asked what criteria was used to grant Pfizer and J&J --companies with multiple felony violations producing enormous fines--contracts which never should have been given ahead of better qualified companies ? J & J has no experience making vaccines . The contractor they hired to produce it in a Baltimore plant was riddled with persistent mold throughout the work areas . Millions of doses they were paid in advance to make thrown out. And why should the biggest violators still be included in any federal formulary?

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