With the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus crossing the half-million mark in India, the virus is spreading at an alarming rate. Since the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to various other diseases, the only way to know if you are infected is by conducting a diagnostic test. While the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had capped the price of COVID-19 testing in private laboratories at ₹4500, it subsequently removed the cap and urged state governments to work with private labs to reduce these rates as far as possible. As of now, the Delhi Government has declared a cap on the rates for COVID-19 testing at ₹2400, and the Maharashtra Government has brought it down to ₹2200.
Tips to get free a COVID-19 test
Since the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Government of India intervened to ensure that maximum people are tested. The price of the test is high, and a large portion of the country’s population cannot afford to even get tested.
Government-run labs and hospitals
Hence, to battle the pandemic effectively, the government has made testing of the virus FREE at all government-run labs in India. However, private hospitals or labs will charge for these tests.
If you have come in close contact with someone diagnosed with the disease or are displaying symptoms like cough, fever, or difficulty in breathing, then here is how you can get a free test done:
- You need to call the toll-free number 1075 or the helpline number +91 11 23978046 and inform the authorities about your symptoms
- If your symptoms indicate possible infection, then the authorities will ask you to visit the nearest government hospital to get the COVID-19 test done.
- This is done free of cost.
- If you are found positive, then you will have to decide if you want to get treated at the government hospital or a private hospital.
Ayushman Bharat Yojana
To make testing and treatment of the novel coronavirus accessible to the underprivileged and poor in the country, the government also decided to make testing and treatment for COVID-19 free under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY). This will benefit around 50 crore beneficiaries in the country. Apart from free testing at government-run labs, these beneficiaries will be able to avail of free testing at private labs too.
Health Insurance policies
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) had notified all health insurance companies to cover COVID-19 in the list of ailments even in the general health insurance plans. This means that all the terms and conditions of a health insurance policy that apply to other diseases and ailments will apply to COVID-19 too.
Hence, depending on the policy and certain conditions, the insurer can cover COVID-19 tests as a part of pre-hospitalization benefits. While all major insurers like Tata AIG offer coronavirus insurance as a part of their regular health insurance plans, you must check with the company about the terms and conditions. While some insurers reimburse the costs of COVID-19 tests only when the policyholder is hospitalized, others offer the benefit even for domiciliary hospitalization or quarantine.
It is important to remember that isolation and quarantine are new concepts for the health insurance sector. If a patient tests positive, then he can either get treated at a hospital or home. Also, he can quarantine himself at a government-run facility too. Hence, it is important to talk to your insurer and assess the conditions under which you can file a claim.
If you have purchased a new health insurance policy to protect against financial costs arising from an emergency due to the coronavirus, then ensure that you know the waiting period. This is the period right after buying a policy where the insurer does not provide any cover.
If the policyholder tests negative, then most insurance companies will reject the claim. Also, if the policyholder is hospitalized for symptomatic treatment alone where the COVID-19 infection is not confirmed, the insurer can reject the claim. Hence, policyholders must talk to their insurers and understand all these terms carefully.
The entire world is trying to battle the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. While wearing a face mask, keeping your hands clean, avoiding touching your face without sanitizing your hands, and maintaining social distancing can help you stay safe, you must be prepared to manage the costs in the unfortunate event of you or a loved one getting infected. The above-mentioned points can help you get free COVID-19 checkup done. The authorities are constantly trying to bring the price for testing and treatment down so that everyone can access them. Also, with researchers constantly striving to create cheaper and more efficient means of testing, we can expect the prices to come down further soon.