More funding for Covid testing clinics and the like is in the works, and it may be a cost saver for employers looking to get people back into the office.
Today, Senate negotiators agreed on a $10-billion spending deal to further fund the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to unnamed congressional aids cited by the Wall Street Journal. It's well below the $22.5 billion the White House originally requested, and the previous bipartisan deal involving $15.6 billion in repurposed funding. Those funds were expected to come from unused funding issued to states, whereas the $10 billion now in question would come from other untapped Covid-relief programs.
Either way, the current package would allow the U.S. to purchase supplies, including more tests and vaccines that will be needed to continue to fight the virus as a new variant rapidly spreads. A variant of Omicron referred to as Omicron BA.2 has triggered a surge in cases in parts of Europe and Asia and now represents more than half of new Covid cases in the U.S.
The extra funding is good news for businesses, especially for those with employees who frequently get tested. While it's not required, many businesses are still opting to only allow vaccinated employees into the office, or those who can show a recent negative Covid test. Still other businesses encourage everyone to get tested on a regular basis.
In the absence of funding for the past couple of weeks, Covid-testing sites across the U.S. had begun requiring insurance information and billing test takers' insurance companies or the test-takers themselves. As of January this year, insurance companies are required to cover at least eight Covid tests per month per person, but that doesn't mean they're free. Insurance companies can start to raise premiums if their costs spike. That would impact both employers and employees, depending on the type of plan and the level of coverage.
And for the uninsured, the full cost of testing, which can clock in at around $125 for a PCR test, would be the individual's responsibility.
With more government-backed testing services available, employees visiting government-sponsored testing facilities won't face higher premiums -- at least not when Covid testing is concerned.