The federal government mandated that COVID-19 testing be at no direct cost to the patient, removing a potentially significant barrier to stemming the spread of the deadly disease.

The government is picking up the tab for testing of those without medical insurance — at a cost that amounts to billions of dollars.

What about those who are insured, either fully or partially? Some insurance companies are attempting to pass the buck. Evidence is emerging that in some states, private insurers are not reimbursing health care providers for the full cost of COVID-19 testing. Some doctors are taking a financial hit. Others are declining to do the testing.

The first outcome is unfair. The second is intolerable. Combined, they are tantamount to a failure to do all that can be done to combat this pandemic.

Even as vaccines roll out across the nation, testing for COVID-19 remains an essential tool to predict hot spots and keep track of community spread. Providing testing free to patients makes sound moral and fiscal sense. Identifying areas with rapid spread can help leaders take measures to curb that spread, potentially saving lives and reducing the strain on hospital systems. People are far more likely to seek out a test if it doesn’t cost them anything.

There should be no barrier to testing. To the contrary. Testing must be encouraged. Being tested is an act of public service.

Just as patients shouldn’t have to open their pocketbooks to pay, neither should doctors foot the bill. Their job is to provide the best care that they can, and if that means administering a coronavirus test to a patient, they should do so without having to worry that they’ll pay through the nose. And the companies producing the tests should be compensated fairly for the labor and materials.

nsurance companies should be barred by government mandate from passing on costs.

— Tribune News Service

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