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CEO of Merso Labs explains confusion over 'free' rapid testing in Lompoc

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Posted at 11:11 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 11:11:52-05

Free rapid testing for COVID-19 from Merso Labs has been available in Lompoc for nearly a month.

Many people say they spent hours in line to get the tests, only to be asked for cash once they got to the door.

The rapid tests are only free, however, if you have proof of insurance.

"If you do have insurance and you don't bring [proof of] it, and you claim that you don't have insurance, we don't get reimbursed for that and that's just a loss for us," Kaleb Asfaha, CEO of Merso Labs, said.

Asfaha says they encountered dozens of patients who actually had insurance but did not provide the information at the time of test.

"We said, 'Hey, we can't continue working at this loss because at that point, it would be giving it away,'" Asfaha said.

The company reached out to the City of Lompoc for financial assistance to help them test more people.

In a statement, the City says:

The city of Lompoc let Merso Labs know that the city is unable to offer financial assistance, and as a courtesy to Merso Labs, [we] reached out to the county with the question about funding. We have not yet received a response from the county on this matter.

In the meantime, Asfaha says he is sorry for the confusion and says the company is trying to fill a need for more testing in the county.

"The other option we have is to not provide the service and kinda wait till we have everything perfect, but I don't think that's best for the community. We're trying to do what we can to provide this service because this is the worst [case numbers] since the pandemic hit," Asfaha said.

Asfaha says they can help those without insurance get reimbursed for their tests from the state.

The testing site at the Dick DeWees Community and Senior Center offers rapid tests and PCR tests (the standard tests for COVID-19).

Merso Labs CEO recommends those who may have been exposed to the virus get the PCR tests as they are more accurate than rapid testing.