24 November 2021

Minister confirms precautionary COVID tests aren't free at government testing clinics

| Lottie Twyford
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Rachel Stephen-Smith

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith wasn’t aware of the arrangements around people being asked to pay for COVID-19 tests at government clinics until today. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith has confirmed that some people are indeed being required to pay for COVID-19 tests at ACT Government clinics.

Region Media has been aware of reports of Canberrans being asked to pay upwards of $110 for a precautionary COVID-19 test before entering some restricted venues such as nursing homes or for interstate/overseas travel.

Until today (23 November), neither ACT Health nor Ms Stephen-Smith were able to confirm these reports.

Ms Stephen-Smith had repeatedly said it was her understanding that Canberrans were required to meet all eligibility requirements to be tested for COVID-19 for free. This meant someone needed to display symptoms of the virus or have been classified as a close or casual contact of a positive case.

READ MORE Should some people have to pay a COVID test fee even if there’s no choice?

As late as today, Ms Stephen-Smith said she was aware of people being turned away from testing centres for not meeting these requirements.

When Ms Stephen-Smith was questioned on the matter in the Assembly today, she initially sought to take the question on notice as she was unaware of the exact arrangements around paying for COVID-19 testing at government clinics.

However, she was later able to respond to the Assembly as she had been made aware of the payment arrangements in the interim.

She told the Assembly individuals could attend the Garran and EPIC testing centres for travel purposes but they will then receive an invoice in the mail.

It’s unclear when this arrangement came into play with the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website only recently updated to reflect the changes.

The exact price of a test has yet to be confirmed, although the Opposition believes it is around $110.

READ MORE No symptoms and not a contact? A COVID-19 test will cost you

Region Media was made aware of an individual being asked to pay $112 in mid-November when she needed to show a negative test result to visit her elderly mother in an aged care facility in regional NSW.

Other Canberrans confirmed similar stories.

She said staff were encouraging people to ‘develop’ symptoms before arriving at the front of the queue to avoid paying for a precautionary test.

Opposition health spokesperson Giulia Jones said paying for testing could prove a substantial financial burden on families hoping to travel over the Christmas period.

Comment from ACT Health is expected tomorrow.

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Charging for a test means fewer people will get tested, which means fewer reported Covid numbers, which means less media and community hysteria, no more lockdowns, masks or sign ins and everyone just learning to live with it before the inevitable arrival of Covid 20, 21 and 22. So bring it on, together with hugs, handshakes and a return to social normality.

It’s really sad that there are people out there that believe that the effects of a virus will disappear if you stop testing for it.

Really highlights the difficulties governments have in setting proportionate policies that assume the general populace are smart enough to understand risk.

$180 from a private clinic last week for international travel.

I think it’s fair that international travellers pay for Covid testing before being allowed into the country, afterall for the most part international travel is discretionary or business related and we need to protect our residents.

While pretty much the rest of the country is open to all Australians, it’s a bit rich for Qld to enforce this “pay for testing,” rule for the purpose of protecting Queenslanders. If Qld had been more proactive with their vaccinations, none of this would be necessary. Why should tourists and people travelling to visit family in Qld be paying for Qld’s pathetically slow vaccination program? I’m sorry Anna. This one is on you!

Payment for testing raises a whole heap of issues, with big consequences. As the Minister stated, fees could be payable to visit your elderly mother in an aged care facility. My mother is in care and she already feels that the place feels like a jail. Imagine having to pay a fee north of $100 every time you visited your mother!

Covid is a pandemic. It is a public health issue. Testing should be fully covered by Medicare.

Covid isn’t a pandemic. It’s a virus that is going to be with us, most likely, forever.

How much longer are you willing to wear the mask, get tested, be locked down, etc.

It should be pretty obvious by now that testing, masking, and locking down are pretty ineffective tools when it comes to eradicating covid. Maybe you can limit the spread a little bit, but none of this is making it go away.

I don’t think people overseas coming into Australia would nessarily share your opinion. I also don’t think most Queenslanders who have been kept safe and mostly normal with these rules for the last 2 years would agree either.
We’ve only been in a rush to vaccinate the southern states because of gold standard mismanagement of the pandemic in NSW.

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