Tests

For COVID Tests, the Question of Who Pays Comes Down to Interpretation

In advance of an upcoming road trip with her elderly parents, Wendy Epstein’s physician agreed it would be “prudent” for her and her kids to get tested for COVID-19.

Seeing the tests as a “medical need,” the doctor said insurance would likely pay for them, with no out-of-pocket cost to Epstein. But her children’s pediatrician said the test would count as a screening test — since the children were not showing symptoms — and she would probably have to foot the bill herself.

It made no sense. “That’s two different responses for the exact same scenario,” said Epstein, a health law professor at DePaul University in Chicago, who deferred the tests as she clarified the options.

Early on in the coronavirus pandemic — when scarce COVID testing was limited to those with serious symptoms or serious exposure — the government and insurers vowed that tests would be dispensed for free

Read More

Hype Collides With Science As FDA Tries To Rein In ‘Wild West’ of COVID Blood Tests

“Save your business while saving lives,” reads the website of Because Health, a Seattle tech startup selling two types of tests to employers willing to pay $350 a pop to learn whether their workers have been infected with COVID-19.

The “Workplace Health” plan includes not only nasal swab tests to detect infection, but also blood tests aimed at indicating whether workers have developed antibodies to the virus — and, possibly, future protection.

“There’s a tremendous consumer demand,” said Dr. Lars Boman, the Boston-based medical director for the firm. “Can they return to work? Can they return to life?”

What the website does not make clear, however, is that public health officials have explicitly warned that antibody tests should not be used to make decisions about workplace staffing.

“This is a personal choice of the business, of the consumer,” Boman said.

Across

Read More

Antibody Tests Were Hailed As Way To End Lockdowns. Instead, They Cause Confusion.

Aspen was an early COVID-19 hot spot in Colorado, with a cluster of cases in March linked to tourists visiting for its world-famous skiing. Tests were in short supply, making it difficult to know how the virus was spreading.

So in April, when the Pitkin County Public Health Department announced it had obtained 1,000 COVID-19 antibody tests that it would offer residents at no charge, it seemed like an exciting opportunity to evaluate the efforts underway to stop the spread of the virus.

“This test will allow us to get the epidemiological data that we’ve been looking for,” Aspen Ambulance District director Gabe Muething said during an April 9 community meeting held online.

However, the plan soon fell apart amid questions about the reliability of the test from Aytu BioScience. Other ski towns such as Telluride, Colorado, and Jackson, Wyoming, as well as the less wealthy border community of Laredo,

Read More

Coronavirus Tests The Value Of Artificial Intelligence In Medicine

Dr. Albert Hsiao and his colleagues at the University of California-San Diego health system had been working for 18 months on an artificial intelligence program designed to help doctors identify pneumonia on a chest X-ray. When the coronavirus hit the United States, they decided to see what it could do.

The researchers quickly deployed the application, which dots X-ray images with spots of color where there may be lung damage or other signs of pneumonia. It has now been applied to more than 6,000 chest X-rays, and it’s providing some value in diagnosis, said Hsiao, the director of UCSD’s augmented imaging and artificial intelligence data analytics laboratory.

His team is one of several around the country that has pushed AI programs developed in a calmer time into the COVID-19 crisis to perform tasks like deciding which patients face the greatest risk of complications and which can be safely channeled into

Read More