Journalism: Does a coronavirus test cost $3,270? No, it does not.

Journalism: Does a coronavirus test cost $3,270? No, it does not.

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This item – in various forms – is circulating on social media. The $3,270 figure often appears as $3,720 and is widely quoted as the cost of a test for COVID-19 also known as corona virus.  Nicholas Kristof works for the NY Times.

The Miami-Herald reported that a man, fearing he might have corona virus, went to an ER and asked to be tested. Because he presented with self reported concerns he may have corona virus he had to be treated by suited up staff in an isolation setting.

As widely reported, the man received an ER bill for $3,270.

The bill he received was for the entire Emergency Room care, not the corona virus test (as widely misquoted on social media). The patient responsibility was about half that or $1,400. The cost of care in an ER generally runs about $30 to $50 per minute of time spent in the ER (really).

The actual cost of a coronavirus test at this time is ZERO (not including your health care provider’s fee):

“The CDC is not billing for the test.”

The US, however, has tested almost no one, compared to several other countries due to protocols that only allowed the test to be done on certain patients, and it turned out that the preliminary kits released by the CDC were flawed.

In Japan, the cost is $50 to $166. Numerous labs all over the world have announced they have developed new testing kits that can give results in 15 to 90 minutes and these tests will be available shortly. At this time, China is said to be doing 1.6 million tests per week, while the U.S., as of March 1st, has done less than 500 CV tests in total.

Bad headlines, like the original one on the Miami-Herald article, get translated on social media into untrue statements (like claiming a coronavirus test costs $3,270).

In the world where one should “never let a crisis go to waste”, many – from social media to professional journalists – are spinning the story, often without facts, in to political advocacy. All media – whether it be print or broadcast – or social media – is a hotbed for propaganda messaging.

Update: An in-home visit to a patient isolated in a home, involves a team of 5 health care workers and 4 hours, costs $2,750.

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