How many different COVID-19 tests are there?

HOUSTON – At just 18 years old, having just graduated from high school, Jessalon Vercher is battling the coronavirus right now. She said the virus has been horrible for her.

“I felt like my whole body just kind of crashed. I started vomiting, had a fever of 101.2, my whole body was sweating. I felt like I was really in a nightmare,” Vercher said.

Jessalon said the virus hit her very quickly, so she went to get tested at the Express Family Clinic in Spring.

At the testing center, family nurse practitioner and clinic owner Melissa Herpal offers COVD-19 tests without an appointment for $150. She does not take insurance, and you get results within three to seven days.

“Our cost from the lab is actually $100 to $125, so it’s not like we’re making tons of money off of the test,” Dr. Herpal said.

A Certified Nurse Practioner for eight years now, Herpal explains there are two very different COVID-19 tests and you need to know the difference.

The first test is the PCR test. Results are determined in a lab and the patient receives them within five to seven days.

The other test is a Rapid Antigen Test. The results come as quickly as 15 minutes after the test, or just a few hours later.

The PCR test has an almost 100% sensitivity rate, so when we test you, we’re going to know with a very high degree of certainty whether or not you are positive or negative.

She continues, “Now, with the rapid, again, you’re getting the results very quickly, which is a very good thing, but the reliability and sensitivity of that is very questionable. There’s a 25% chance it’s wrong,” Herpal said.

Once you decide if on which test you want to take, the next question is cost. One of the biggest questions is if you have health insurance, how much should you have to pay for a COVID-19 test?

“If you have health insurance, the CARES Act that was passed by Congress and signed by the President requires that your insurer cover the whole cost of your COVID19 test, under most conditions,” said Dr. Vivian Ho, health economist at Rice University’s Baker Institute and Baylor College of Medicine.

She says the self-pay pricing for COVID-19 ranges widely.

“The prices range anywhere from $25 to $850, but really, the median is around between $100 and $150,” Dr. Ho said.

Channel 2 Investigates called a wide range of local clinics for their prices on COVID-19 testing without insurance, and we found a range of costs from just under $80 up to $200.

With the bulk of those places charging around $150.

Finally, if you’re strapped for cash, Herpel recommends going to one of the many free COVID-19 testing sites. On any given day, there are dozens of free drive-thru testing sites in Houston and the surrounding areas. There are also several Federally Qualified Health Centers where you can also get tested.

(Find a Federally Qualified Health Center)

If you do decide you are going to go to a private clinic and pay cash Herpel recommends these steps.

“Call them, find out the procedure, find out the price and make sure everything’s in there, no hidden costs, associated with that price.”

As for young Jessalon, she is feeling much better now and plans to go to school to study nursing.

“I want to be a RN one day, and I will make it,” says Jessalon.


About the Author:

Emmy-winning investigative reporter, insanely competitive tennis player, skier, weightlifter, crazy rock & roll drummer (John Bonham is my hero). Husband to Veronica and loving cat father to Bella and Meemo.