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Cost variation for COVID-19 PCR tests could be causing higher insurance premiums


Researchers at Michigan State University found variation in the cost of COVID-19 PCR tests for insurance companies may mean increased premiums for some policy holders.

MSU researchers say they chose to review five major insurance companies and the cost of these tests at nearly 1,700 hospitals. They looked at both the negotiated price private insurers pay and the upfront cash prices for the procedure.

They specifically studied COVID-19 PCR testsas researchers considered them standardized and routine for patients.

Using disclosed data from hospitals, the study found found the price patients paid for tests varied depending on their insurance plan. In some cases, prices differed within the same hospital.

John Xuefeng Jiang, an Eli Broad Professor of Accounting and Information Systems at MSU, led the study. He said that discrepancy could mean policyholders are paying more for their insurance coverage.

“At the end of the day you are going to pay a high premium, because they are linked together," Jiang said. "The insurance company [has] to make a living right? So if they have to pay a high price, where [do] they recover the cost?”

Jiang says he’s not sure why the price variation is happening. But he hopes companies negotiate better deals for policyholders.

“We hope that by exposing the price discrepancy that consumers [and] patients, they can do a better job to pick the right insurance plan,” he said.

Melorie Begay is WKAR-FM's weekend host and a general assignment reporter.
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