International students stung for COVID-19 testing
INTERNATIONAL students and non-residents should not be billed for coronavirus tests in Tasmania, Labor and the Greens have argued.
Their calls came after a United States couple living in Hobart since February last year were charged a fee when they came forward for testing after developing symptoms.
The visa holders were tested at a general practitioner in Sandy Bay on April 22 and later received a bill from Hobart Pathology for $258.40 each.
The couple, who did not want to be identified, tested negative for the virus.
"We had been feeling sick for a couple of weeks and we wanted to do the right thing,'' the woman explained.
The woman said the couple first called the Public Health Hotline and were told they did not pass the basic criteria for testing at that time.
They were then told to call their GP, but at no time were they told they would be billed.
The woman said the couple have private health insurance but it was unclear whether they would be able to claim all or part of the fee.
She said she now understood fees for testing of non-residents were only waived at mobile testing clinics.
"It was an initial shock and there is something of a lapse there for folks who are non-residents,'' the woman said.
Labor health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said those coming forward to get tested should not be charged a fee, regardless of whether or not they were a resident.
"It doesn't make sense that anybody would be charged so much for trying to do the right thing and get tested for COVID-19 given the enormous threat that the disease has on public health,'' she said.
Greens health spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said every person living in Tasmania should be able to easily and quickly get a coronavirus test if they have symptoms.
"Tasmania can't afford to have a two-tiered testing system that means international residents are effectively locked out of finding their coronavirus status because of an absurdly high $250 test price,'' Dr Woodruff said.
"GPs are the only places outside of main cities that Tasmanians can be guaranteed of getting a coronavirus test any day of the week."
Health Minister Sarah Courtney said the State Government would waive any fees for testing at Tasmanian Health Service clinics, irrespective of residency status.
"We want to encourage the broadest possible testing within our community,'' she said.
"Anybody who is referred to a private clinic is encouraged to request information from their GP on possible charges."
Non-residents travelling in the state who do not have adequate private health insurance coverage do not have to pay for hospital treatment associated with COVID-19.
A Federal Health Department spokeswoman said the decision to charge patients who were ineligible for Medicare was a matter for respective state and territory governments.
The spokeswoman said all visitors to Australia were expected to have appropriate travel insurance or private health insurance to cover health care costs while they were here.
It is understood Australia has reciprocal health care agreements (RHCA) with many overseas countries, but not the United States of America.
It is believed that for out of hospital GP and specialist doctor services, visitors from countries that do not have a RHCA with Australia, they or their insurer would have to pay costs incurred.
Originally published as International students stung for COVID-19 testing