HONOLULU (KHON2) — The days of free COVID tests are coming to an end, coinciding with the end of the federal Public Health Emergency and the funding that helped pay for testing and other resources during the pandemic.
Matthew Sullivan, the director of product at Oceanit which makes the ASSURE-100 Rapid COVID-19 Home Test, said the changes will impact Hawaii’s vulnerable populations most. So they’re working with the state to come up with a long-term plan.
“When COVID first happened, the government declared a national health emergency,” Sullivan said. “And with that came a whole bunch of things to support the pandemic and Pandemic response, one of those was free testing.”
Then Hawaii saw drive-by testing, walk-up testing at hospitals, airports, churches, parking lots and even at beach parks. Getting a free COVID-19 test was pretty easy the past two years.
And once the at-home test kits were developed, you could even log on to a website or call a toll-free number and get them mailed to you.
“[Oceanit] is the only local company producing a rapid test for COVID,” Sullivan explained. “We’ve been working on this for the past few years. And we’re out in the market with COVID tests.”
But he said things are about to change.
The era of free COVID-19 testing for all will end when the federal PHE for COVID-19 expires on May 11.
While the two coincide, free testing isn’t ending because the mandate is.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services website, many services are changing in part because “the federal government has not received additional funds from Congress.”
Sullivan said a lack of access to free COVID testing means fewer people will get tested and that could have a negative impact on the community .
He said tests help diagnose Hawaii’s vulnerable populations sooner, so they can get treatment faster. And that gives them a better chance of recovering, and not ending up in the hospital or ICU.
“That’s just not good for anybody. It’s good for the state,” Sullivan added. ” It’s good for families.
So they’re working on a plan
“We’re trying to work with this state to come up with a longer term solution to really fill this gap. Because I think everyone will benefit if we can,” he said.
“That’s really our aim is to give people the tools if they want to test. If they’re worried about infecting someone that is at risk,” said Sullivan. “They have the tools, and they’re sort of at their fingertips, and they’re affordable.”
According to HHS, state Medicaid Programs are required to cover COVID-19 tests until September 2024. And depending on supply the U.S. government may continue to distribute free tests from the strategic national stockpile.
Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You