Proposed legislation follows the lead of the No Surprises Act to take aim at surprise bills and price gouging from COVID-19 testing.

U.S. Representatives introduced the No Surprises for COVID-19 Tests Act last week to extend free COVID-19 testing while combating associated price gouging and surprise bills.

While Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in 2020 to provide free COVID-19 testing for the public regardless of insurance coverage, some providers are using loopholes to slap patients with surprise bills for tests at unreasonable prices, according to the legislators.

The No Surprises for COVID-19 Tests Act would extend coverage of free testing beyond the public health emergency until December 31, 2023, with insurance companies required to continue providing coverage for related items and services without any cost-sharing such as health provider office visits, urgent care visits, and emergency room visits resulting in a COVID-19 test. The bill would also strike a provision of the CARES Act that allows providers to bill at whatever cash price they choose, causing price gouging of tests.

“Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to ensure that everyone would have access to free and widely available COVID-19 testing,” Frank Pallone, chairperson of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement. 

“Unfortunately, some test providers are exploiting unintended loopholes in the system to unfairly price gouge and wrongfully bill patients for tests that should be free. The No Surprises for COVID-19 Tests Act will close these loopholes and ensure that Americans do not receive surprise medical bills for doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Congress must act on this commonsense legislation soon,” he added.

The legislation follows the No Surprises Act, which was signed in 2020 and took effect on January 1 to protect patients from surprise bills after receiving care. As support grows against unfair billing practices, the No Surprises for COVID-19 Tests Act appears to be a natural next step for Congress to take while the pandemic continues.

“One of the most critical steps Congress took at the onset of the pandemic was providing Americans with free COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. We must provide consumers with the certainty that this protection will remain in effect in the months ahead,” said Robert Scott, chairperson of the Education and Labor Committee. “The last thing families need during this ongoing public health emergency is an unexpected medical bill for a COVID-19 test. This legislation will help ensure that all Americans can continue to access no-cost COVID-19 testing and slow the spread of COVID-19.”