Residents of Refugio County,
Recently it was brought to my attention that there is some confusion regarding COVID-19 testing here at Refugio Hospital. I am going to try and clear this up as much as I can.
COVID-19 tests have never been free at the hospital unfortunately as was promised by our federal government at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. COVID-19 tests are free at County Health Departments in the surrounding counties if you qualify for the testing, as determined by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services written criteria. Typically everyone goes to Bee County Health Department for “free” federal/state sponsored COVID-19 tests.
We have always charged cost on our COVID-19 tests (so we make no money off those tests.) since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hospital Board was approached and approved this action as we believe this is still the best way to serve & protect our community instead of profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This practice is still followed as I type this response. The cost that we charge for our “rapid” or “antigen” tests is $35-$42 dollars. Multiple other free standing facilities are charging $225-$250 for the same exact test. Our cost covers the cost of purchasing the tests and the laboratory handling of the specimen as well as the CLIA certified processing, interpretation, and resulting of the test. Many employers require a CLIA certified laboratory to verify COVID-19 test results.
Unfortunately COVID-19 tests that are administered at a hospital in Texas, require a healthcare provider to order the COVID-19 test. Those are the rules that Refugio Hospital must abide by per CMS & HHSC. This does incur a charge to the patient. However you will also be evaluated by a healthcare professional that can also provide treatments for COVID-19 (if that ends up being what you have) like Paxlovid or other ancillary care of your symptoms. Having a healthcare provider assess you for COVID-19 is a very important point. We have seen multiple patients that thought they had COVID-19 because of their symptoms and it turned out to be a much more serious condition. Last one in recent memory ended up having lung cancer regrettably.
If you do not need to be assessed by a health care provider, your Insurance (depending on the insurance & plan) will pay for up to 8 “OTC” or “DTC” COVID-19 tests that are dispensed at a pharmacy. Sometimes you will need a health care provider’s order to have the pharmacy dispense the COVID-19 home tests. Definitely check with your insurance provider to ascertain how many COVID-19 tests they will provide and find out the process to receive the OTC COVID-19 tests.
Free COVID-19 tests as mentioned earlier, are available at county health departments, if you qualify for the test.
If you do have trouble paying for an office visit or your COVID-19 test that we offer at cost, we do have our “Refugio County Indigent Program” that we sponsor. There are qualifications, as per the State of Texas, to be accepted to the program. But we will be more than happy to assist you with filing and going through this process.
Here at the hospital we completely understand that healthcare is very expensive and this is why we sponsor the Refugio County Indigent Program. In addition we have worked with multitudes of patients to offer payment plans.
I heard that taxpayer money was brought up and a concern. All tax money that comes into the hospital is applied to patients and families accounts that cannot afford their care. Typically the hospital has over a quarter of million dollars every month in accounts for families who cannot afford to pay for their healthcare bills. Tax payer contributions generally do not ever cover the entire amount of patient debts. This is public knowledge and can be viewed by visiting our website (refugiohospital.com).
If anyone has any questions about COVID-19 testing, other concerns, or this post please feel free to call me at the hospital or any of our staff to help you. We all truly believe we are here to help everyone in our community get the personalized healthcare they deserve.
Corey A. Wasicek, CEO