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

Ian Bushnell 18 November 2021 67
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.


What's Your Opinion?


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67 Responses to Should some people have to pay a COVID test fee even if there’s no choice?
kenbehrens kenbehrens 8:34 pm 22 Nov 21

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

Josette Noble Josette Noble 7:56 pm 22 Nov 21

This is a disgrace first they can’t get you in there fast enough and now they want to charge a fee

Dean Allan Dean Allan 6:18 pm 21 Nov 21

Is all going to be paid for one way or another free testing means higher tax or higher Medicare levy ? Health workers don’t work for free and neither they should??? Thank you health workers and frontline staff you’re all legends in my book.

Tarz Lam Tarz Lam 10:12 am 20 Nov 21

Ken Behrens is dead.

Acton Acton 6:54 am 20 Nov 21

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.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:44 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.

Tijana Ružić Tijana Ružić 5:34 pm 19 Nov 21

I love how now that this is effecting everyone it's a problem.

    Jill Lynch Jill Lynch 12:41 am 20 Nov 21

    Tijana Ružić Hits their hearts they don't care but hit their pockets and watch out lol

Celia Jane Lancaster Celia Jane Lancaster 4:59 pm 19 Nov 21

People need to travel for a variety of reasons. Health, work, visit a dying relative, funeral, caring duties, shared custody of children etc. Having to get a mandatory travel test beforehand is making it complicated enough, but to stick a steep price tag on that test is a slap in the face for most people.

Onelia Herriot Onelia Herriot 4:46 pm 19 Nov 21

Paying for a test to access aged care is wrong.

However, if a test is needed for international travel then you need more than just the sms. You need a signed certificate stating the test is negative. If you can afford international travel, you can afford to pay for the test.

Michael Blythe Michael Blythe 4:30 pm 19 Nov 21

If I ever got charged for something the government requests, I would tell them to send the invoice to the prime minister! I for one wouldn’t pay one red cent.

    Jamie Syme Jamie Syme 8:53 pm 22 Nov 21

    Michael Blythe like a police check for work? Or a medical for a drivers licence when you get old? 🙄

Somone Cosgrove-Kaye Somone Cosgrove-Kaye 3:01 pm 19 Nov 21

My son just had to pay over $300 for the PCR test in New Zealand to come home to Australia, they didn’t even ask for it when he arrived in Sydney.

The airlines want a report as proof of not having Covid while the drive through clinics only provide a txt message which isn’t sufficient?

    Somone Cosgrove-Kaye Somone Cosgrove-Kaye 6:32 pm 19 Nov 21

    Onelia, yes that’s correct which is why you can’t just use the drive through clinics and have to use the private pathology clinics which cost $

Kylie Tinnock Kylie Tinnock 2:37 pm 19 Nov 21

Is Queanbeyan charging for the test if it’s for travel? If not most people will go there and get the test done

Paula Simcocks Paula Simcocks 12:55 pm 19 Nov 21

Absolutely we are not America , even they didn’t charge people being rescued in Hurricane Katrina - public health and subsequent rules must allow equal access to all, free tests to ensure all can go to work, buy food and visit family.

Jody Maree Harrison Jody Maree Harrison 11:07 am 19 Nov 21

What happened to keeping People safe ?

I see a protest coming we already have anti vaxxers freedom this freedom that people losing jobs because they don’t want to be vacxxed ect . It’s becoming a pandemic joke really .

Amy Lee Ford Amy Lee Ford 11:05 am 19 Nov 21

Then people wont get tested. Simple.

Sonia Ellem Sonia Ellem 10:54 am 19 Nov 21

Have to take my daughter to the to eye clinic at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney in December. There is no Specialists in Canberra for most of her complicated medical issues. NSW Health have informed us we need negative Covid tests 45-72 hours before the appointment. Now as well as having to take an unpaid day off work plus the cost of travel I have to pay for 2 Covid tests. Have already had to cancel the regular 6 month appointment twice. Thinking I may have to cancel yet again until NSW Health no longer requires the tests.

Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić 10:12 am 19 Nov 21

1.9 BILLION for tram phase 2, which is not urgent by any stretch of imagination, yet they are considering saving on tests in a pandemic!

Let that sink in for a moment.

This is how we ended up with longest ER wait times in Australia.

Scott Abela Scott Abela 10:11 am 19 Nov 21

If it's such a serious health pandemic that some are forced to be vaccinated against their will, then it sounds serious enough for testing to be free.

Judith Scerri Judith Scerri 9:59 am 19 Nov 21

Its not a question of who should pay for the test, but rather why are healthy people with no symptoms or close contacts required to get a test to travel? Especially around the same country?

    Carol Croce Carol Croce 1:34 pm 19 Nov 21

    There are other situations that require healthy vaccinated people to get tested, too. According to ACT Health, if you were in a casual contact exposure site during the time frame, you have to get a test and quarantine until you get a negative result. I got a pop up on my CheckIn CBR app that I had been to such a site (10 days after the event), the result of spending less than 5 minutes buying tickets in the foyer of Palace Cinema. I am fully vaxxed, no symptoms but did the 1.5 hour drive through EPIC regime this morning and waiting for results. I may not have done it if I knew it was going to cost me $112. I don;t think I should be financially penalised for being a conscientious Canberran.

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 1:35 pm 19 Nov 21

    Judith Scerri exactly!

    Judith Scerri Judith Scerri 2:22 pm 19 Nov 21

    Carol Croce I agree that you absolutely should not have been required to pay for your test. Im not an expert so I wont comment on whether your test was necessary or not, but things really need to be sorted out and if the government deems it a necesary measure for public health, then it should be covered by taxes not individuals

Leanne Hermes Leanne Hermes 9:57 am 19 Nov 21

No and do they realise how hard it is to get into a Dr these days?

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