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Local urgent cares see influx of people seeking coronavirus test following change in SLO County guidlelines

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Posted at 12:07 AM, Apr 08, 2020

Local urgent cares say they are seeing an influx of people looking to get tested for COVID-19.

The rush comes a day after San Luis Obispo County health officials urged people to get tested.

"[Patient volume] probably doubled overnight," said Dr. Eric Sorenson, Medical Director and Owner of Urgent Cares of Atascadero, Morro Bay, and Pismo Beach.

"We've gotten more phone calls than were otherwise expected. We've seen a few more patients and some inquiries into what's appropriate COVID testing and how we can help them," said Dr. Brian Roberts, Physician and Owner of MedStop Urgent Care Center.

“After the announcement by the SLO County Department of Public Health encouraging a lower clinical threshold for testing, Dignity Health Urgent Care centers have seen a significant increase in patients seeking testing for COVID-19 at our five locations. “In fact, the numbers of patients have doubled in a few of our sites," said Dr. Scott Robertson, Chief Medical Officer of Dignity Health Central Coast.

County officials announced Monday more testing for COVID-19 is available in San Luis Obispo County.

People with mild symptoms like a runny nose or sore throat can get now tested for the disease.

But there's still a gray area when it comes to who is paying for the tests and treatment.

"The government is saying the testing is free. I assume that's correct. They're also saying the co-payments and coinsurance -- if it is a COVID-19 related treatment, diagnosis and evaluation -- those would be paid by the insurance company as well," Dr. Roberts explained.

Which could mean no out of pocket costs for a person being tested for the disease, but urgent cares we spoke to say it varies by insurance and treatments provided.

"We're providing a service in our urgent care and we're not a government entity, we're not paid employees by the state or the county, so it's not a free service, but the thing we don't have control over is the actual lab test," Dr. Sorenson said.

"There's a lot of things that need to be done in order to know that you're treating a patient the right way. We charge for those services and those charges are variable depending on how complex the evaluation is, how complex your medical history is, what we need to do and then there's your insurance company," said Dr. Roberts.

County officials say it's best to call around and do your research before going to get tested.

For more information on accessing care, the county recommends checking the California Department of Insurance website.

Many local urgent care facilities outsource their testing to WestPac labs. We reached out to them for a comment on what fees they're waiving and are waiting to hear back.