Jan 3, 2022 - COVID

Who is regulating pop-up COVID testing?

Testing site in a parking lot.
This mobile testing center in a Lincoln Park parking lot is one of hundeds of new testing centers across the state. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Hundreds of pop-up COVID testing centers have opened across the state in recent weeks to collect and process hundreds of thousands of tests a day.

Why it matters: These ad hoc testing centers are collecting mountains of sensitive medical and financial information from the public with little to no apparent regulation from city and state authorities.

  • Over the past two weeks, Axios Chicago has asked officials at the Chicago Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Illinois Attorney General's office if they are regulating the centers.
  • The answer across the board? No.
  • This comes amid repeated calls from city and state officials to "get tested."
  • Citizens have reported unsafe and suspicious behavior at the pop up clinics, per Block Club Chicago.

The complaints: Axios Chicago has heard (and experienced) similar problems, including charging for tests, asking for Social Security numbers, not asking for health insurance information, not returning test results and even returning results before a sample was submitted.

Meanwhile, officials offer some basic advice:

  • IDPH advises using testing sites on its list and avoiding sites that don't share the name of their partner lab.
  • While IDPH doesn't regulate the testing sites, it can investigate the labs they partner with. Those labs should all have Clinical Labs Improvement Act (CLIA) certification. Complaints can be called into the CLIA hotline at 1-800-252-4343.
  • The Illinois AG's office further warns that citizens shouldn't use any center that asks for Social Security numbers.
  • The Cook County Department of Public Health stresses that tests are free regardless of insurance and immigration status.

The real cost: Axios Chicago consulted folks who run testing centers, including Mohammad Usman of COVID Express Care, and officials from IDHFS, which administers Medicaid, to find out how much centers are reimbursed by government and insurance for each processed test.

  • On average, it's about $100 for PCR tests and $35 for rapid antigen tests.
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