Free coronavirus testing available across Illinois as rise in cases, upcoming holidays cause concern

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CHICAGO — We know it’s important to get tested if you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms, but it can be confusing when it comes to what kind of test you should take and whether you have to pay for it.

Innovative Express Care CEO Dr. Rahul Khare says his clinics have been testing about 1,200 patients a day, often using the PCR test which he called “the gold standard” because it’s done by a professional in a lab setting.

“Those are about 98-100% accurate, those are the best that we have; the antigen based test or the rapid test has around an 80 to 85%, accuracy, but it has a turnaround time of same-day or sometimes 15 minutes,” Khare said.

The State of Illinois and local health departments offer free PCR tests using the nasal swab, but some of them have recently been inundated.

“There’s such a demand for tests, and there’s not enough capacity for us physicians to do it,” Khare said.

The DuPage County Health Department sent out a tweet telling residents it was closed 2.5 hours after it opened because it had already reached capacity for the day.

That’s when people turn to clinics, where Dr. Khare said testing is still free even if you are asked to provide insurance information.

Khare also points out there is no limit to the number of Covid tests you can take, and insurance will cover the entire test even if you have a co-pay or if you haven’t met your deductible.

“Somebody has to pay for that because it is expensive and insurances are covering that, as well as the CARES Act which the government, the federal government has enacted, where if you had no insurance, you’re actually covered as well,” Khare said.

There have been cases of clinics billing patients. In May, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued a warning to medical facilities to stop requiring serology test to check for antibodies before testing for Covid.

They were also ordered to reimburse patients who have paid out-of-pocket or face the possibility of losing their license.

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