In their April 9, 2021 Op-Ed for CNN, PRAC Chair Michael Horowitz and HHS OIG's Christi Grimm outline four crucial lessons for improving COVID-19 testing. This report examines COVID-19 testing efforts for six federal health care programs during the first seven months following the declaration of a public health emergency in the United States. Published by the PRAC Health Care Subgroup, the report takes a detailed look at testing data in each of the programs that, when combined, provide benefits or care for about 64 million individuals. We hope this report will help policymakers as they continue to develop and refine their testing efforts related to testing accessibility and availability for at-risk populations, cost effectiveness, and sufficiency of data available to inform testing efforts.
The Subgroup asked the following questions of all six agencies:
- How many COVID-19 tests were administered, and when?
- Who was tested?
- What types of tests were administered?
- How much did each health care program pay for tests?
- In what health care settings did people access testing?
- How long did it take to return test results?
- Federal reimbursement for COVID-19 viral tests varied across the programs.
- Trends in COVID-19 testing largely followed the same pattern as national testing trends from February through August 2020.
- The majority of COVID-19 tests programs administered or paid for were viral tests, which detect current SARS-CoV-2 infections and identify those who could transmit the virus.
- Readily available information on COVID-19 test turnaround time was only available from the three programs that administered tests; two of the three reported that test processing times decreased over time.
- With respect to gender, age, and race or ethnicity, testing of federal beneficiaries was generally proportional to the demographic characteristics of the population that two programs served; the other four programs had varying levels of demographic information available.
Exhibit 1: Federal health care programs covered in this report and the populations they serve.
|Health care programs that process claims and pay for COVID-19 testing||Health care programs that provide COVID-19 testing at facilities they manage or operate|
|Federal Health Care Program||Medicare Part B||Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP)||Office of Workers’ Compensation Program||Veterans Health Administration||Medical Treatment Facilities||Bureau of Prisons|
|Population Served*||38.9 million adults age 65 years and older, as well as those with end-stage renal disease and people with a qualifying disability||6.2 million federal employees, retirees, and eligible family members enrolled in two of the largest FEHBP carriers||More than 223,000 federal employees who filed for workers’ compensation; current or former Department of Energy workers and contractors; and former coal miners and their surviving dependents||9 million enrolled veterans, employees, and other nonveterans, who meet specific criteria||9.6 million military personnel and their families||More than 218,000 federal inmates assigned to federal prisons operated by the Bureau of Prisons; contract prisons; and residential reentry centers (also known as halfway houses)|
|Number of People who received at least one COVID-19 test||5,090,175||473,440||1,098||553,687||319,674||66,587|
*For detailed descriptions of the population that each program serves, see the section in the report for each agency.