18 November 2021

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

| Ian Bushnell
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COVID testing

A COVID-19 drive-through testing site. Photo: File.

The ACT Government was quick to disavow the zealous health official who told an ACT resident in need of a COVID PCR test to visit her mother in a nursing home that she might have to cough up $112 for the privilege of joining the queue at EPIC or be out of pocket at a GP (if she could find one).

But the incident this week raises the issue of whether a person should, in effect, be penalised for having to follow a government rule.

Apparently, only close contacts and those with symptoms should turn up the government testing clinics, and the rest should go to those easily accessible GPs and pull out the card.

And that’s been the policy all along, according to Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith. Funny I don’t remember being asked when I rolled up to the Kambah testing clinic when the ACT was gripped with COVID panic.

Now the clinics can pick and choose, although the word in the queue this week was just say you have mild symptoms and don’t mention the visit to the nursing home or interstate trip.

The ACT COVID-19 website said that if you don’t fit the testing criteria, you may be charged a fee – that covers it.

Well, maybe not, especially without an EFTPOS machine on hand.

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

If the government is setting the rule, and it can’t escape responsibility by saying it’s up to individual aged care facilities how they manage things, then it should bear the cost.

It has created the issue, COVID remains a public health issue and these become matters outside our control that are supposed to be in the public interest.

I know we already have a whole range of requirements, from passport photos to physical examinations, that come with fees attached and about which we have little choice.

Some can be understood as actually covering the cost of a service, but the fee for others such as birth certificates, essentially your information, remains bewildering, especially in the digital era.

But COVID has brought with it a new set of demands that limit our ability to travel and in other jurisdictions even access services, again supposedly in the public interest.

It has resulted in a whole bureaucratic structure set up to manage the impacts and mitigate the risks.

If we are still to play our part in containing that risk, whether that be getting vaccinated or getting tested, we are not at the stage yet where the cost can be handed to the individual.

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Covid is a public health issue. If you put a fee on testing, people won’t get tested. It’s that simple.

There is no such thing as a free lunch and there is no such thing as a free covid test. The pathology companies are not doing it for nothing when they examine what has been stuck up and wiggled around inside your nose. They are being paid very well by the government out of our taxes, or out of the taxes of our children as they pay off government debt. The pathology companies benefit financially from promoting ongoing, especially mandatory, Covid testing, as shown by their profits, booming share price and very happy shareholders.

HiddenDragon6:44 pm 19 Nov 21

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

Absobloodylutely not when the absence of choice arises from a decision of government, particularly when there are still regular reports in local media about health officials “pleading” with people to “come forward” for testing.

If/when the time comes that there are no government mandated requirements for testing for access to facilities and services within Australia, that will then ultimately be a matter for courts and tribunals to decide, in light of any specific health guidelines and/or broader anti-discrimination legislation.

Following public health directives should not come at a cost. It is a public good – we’ve already paid through our excessive rates and Territory taxes.

There is literally no reason why the government should pay for these tests out of taxpayer dollars so individuals can visit certain places or travel interstate/overseas. At over $100 a pop, the cost of these tests are exorbitant and government funds need to be limited to where it will create the most benefit and reduce the risk of covid spread. Which is for symptomatic people and contacts. Not private benefit.

Just think about that cost. During the peak of the NSW outbreak they were completing 160000+ tests a day. Millions daily of taxpayer funds. The ACT spending a few hundred thousand a day. We clearly need to prioritise and ration that type of spend.

“Funny I don’t remember being asked when I rolled up to the Kambah testing clinic when the ACT was gripped with COVID panic”

Funny because I remember them doing that every single time I’ve been tested both in the drive through and walk in centres. They literally ask you if you have symptoms or are a contact. What exactly do you think those questions are for? Whilst they may have been lax in applying the rules during the very height of the outbreaks, they definitely were turning people away all through the early phases as they tried to ration tests and testing capabilities.

We are now on the other side, time to get back to some sort of rationality.

Agree with you about testing before travel (and this coming from someone who is going to QLD in January so you for 4 tests).

Where it doesn’t make much sense is where some need to be tested to enter say a nursing home. This in my opinion should be a rapid test done by the home on arrival.

Agree with you, the problem is in the requirement for a PCR test before entering the nursing/aged care homes.

If you are fully vaccinated, feeling healthy and pass a rapid test, surely that risk is low enough.

Somebody somewhere is making a lot of money from convincing people all of this testing is necessary.

NO !!!! Not a chance, refuse to go anywhere domestically or internationally if required to have a negative test that I have to pay for !!!!!

Someonesmother7:21 am 19 Nov 21

Who else can see covid ramping up as people refuse to pay or can’t afford to pay for testing?

Why would that happen?

This isn’t about testing if you are sick or a close contact that remains free.

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