HHS Extends COVID-19 Testing Public-Private Partnership

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will extend its partnership with national pharmacy and grocery retail chains CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, Quest (through services at Walmart) and eTrueNorth (through services at Kroger, Health Mart, and Walmart) so they may continue to seamlessly provide Americans convenient access to COVID-19 testing. The partnership, which is part of the Community-Based Testing Program, has scaled up to more than 600 COVID-19 testing sites in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Approximately 70% of these testing sites are located in communities with moderate-to-high social vulnerability, as evidenced by their racial, and ethnic composition, and their housing, economic, language barrier, and similar considerations.

“The Trump Administration will continue to fully support the public health needs of all states as they respond to recent increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. To maintain or increase our COVID-19 testing footprint, especially in areas of high social vulnerability, we are extending this partnership through August 2020.  To date, this single program has tested over 750,000 individuals,” said Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Brett P. Giroir, M.D.  “We need to leverage the power of the private sector to provide easy access and availability of testing to help slow community spread of COVID-19.”

The contract utilizes a federal bundled payment program paid directly to retailers that receive a flat fee for each test administered, with participating retailers responsible for coordinating the full end-to-end testing. That process includes online and telephone registration and appointment scheduling, provider order and notification of result, on-site personnel and security, medical supplies and equipment, and lab testing (on-site or commercial lab) capabilities. Partners are also required to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing criteria.

“This program not only provides convenient access to COVID-19 testing, it is a bridge for retailers to implement new regulatory flexibilities and expanded reimbursement options HHS has provided through private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and the newly expanded authority given to pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 testing,” said Deputy Surgeon General RADM Erica Schwartz, M.D., M.P.H., who oversees the program. “Providing retailers an option for reimbursement for COVID-19 testing outside of this contract will be essential for the private sector to take over COVID-19 testing once this contract concludes.  CVS has set up 1,400 additional testing sites using these regulatory flexibilities.”

The accessibility and distribution of retail and community-based pharmacies make pharmacy and retail sites the first point of contact with a healthcare professional for many Americans.

To find Community-Based Testing Sites for COVID-19, click here.

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