Jamal Bryant‘s church New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia recently made plans to test 1,000 people for coronavirus. However, they wanted to charge people money for a process that should be free.
According to AJC, the church has now postponed their plans due to Gov. Brian Kemp’s statewide shelter-in-place order that is expected to go into effect Friday. However, that didn’t stop them from receiving backlash for their original plan to charge people $150 to get coronavirus testing.
The testing was supposed to be split evenly over Saturday and Sunday and recipients should have expected their results in about 24 hours. Pastor Bryant said although many churches have refrained from in-person worship services, “the vision has to keep going on.”
Bryant said his church had plans to turn its parking lot into a mobile health clinic. He said the idea started when he was approached by a Florida lab that wanted to partner with New Birth to provide test kits. Other partners apart of the initiative included health professionals in the metro area.
Those interested in getting tested would register in advance and go through a medical pre-screening before the on-site test would be administered. RoweDocs would perform the pre-screening at $25 while the COVID-19 testing would be $125 for a total expense of $150. The church said people should check with their insurer.
RoweDocs is a Black-owned telemedicine company that was founded in 2014. Bryant argued that there are many people of color living on the margins without adequate access to health services and this was the right thing to do. He said when it comes to testing, these people are “pretty low on the totem pole.”
It’s ironic that Bryant would say this, considering his church is charging over one hundred dollars for testing. Questions arise like what if someone doesn’t have insurance? For those who do have insurance, if a person’s insurer is supposed to reimburse their payment, how long would this process take?
According to TIME, the March 18 Families First Coronavirus Response Act mandates coronavirus testing to be free. Medicaid, Medicare, other government plans, and most private plans cover COVID-19 testing and all testing-related services completely. There should be no co-pays, no deductibles, and no co-insurance charges. However, the law doesn’t explicitly prohibit charging you if you have to visit an out-of-network provider.
If you don’t have insurance the March 18 law provides two options. The first is it provides $1 billion to the National Disaster Medical System to reimburse medical providers for testing and diagnosing uninsured patients. This means that the medical providers would be able to send your bill directly to the federal government and get reimbursed without you needing to be involved. The other option is that the law boosts funding for Medicaid and lets states decide whether to cover uninsured residents’ testing for free via the program — meaning you would be temporarily enrolled in your state’s Medicaid program in order to be tested.
Considering these rules, there shouldn’t be a price tag attached to New Birth’s testing, at least not one made to the public. If people don’t have insurance, their partnerships should allow them to pay for testing and then the medical professionals would be reimbursed by the government. If the state of Georgia falls out of this process, then the church and organizations should still provide free testing, considering they are there to serve the community. If anything, the promotion for the testing should have communicated that it’s free with a few minor caveats, such as if the church is out of network for someone who is insured, then that person might want to get tested somewhere else. Either way, twenty-five dollars for a pre-screening and $125 for a test doesn’t feel right.
There’s no word if the church will still charge people in light of their postponement. However, based on a statement they released, it’s still a possibility.
“To remain compliant with Governor Brian Kemp’s executive order, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and various medical partners will postpone the COVID-19 testing scheduled for this weekend,” the church statement said. “We look forward to coordinating with our local and state officials to support flattening the curve in Georgia and helping to heal our nation and our world from this global pandemic.”