We launched a partnership with inewsource.org in San Diego in the spring of 2021, bringing transparency to San Diego healthcare by telling people what Covid tests cost.

We did a survey of local providers in spring of 2021, and learned that the prices could range from $0 to $400. There are a number of higher-charging providers, and a number that won’t accept insurance, we found. The result: An article on May 11, 2021, titled “Why COVID-19 tests could still cost you $400 in San Diego County.”

Inewsource reporter Jill Castellano wrote an article about the data that read, in part:

“As a waiter who had been laid off four times during the pandemic, Carmen Lucci couldn’t afford a COVID-19 test. But he couldn’t afford to go without it, either.

“The La Mesa resident was exposed to COVID-19 in October, and his employer demanded a negative test before his upcoming shift or a two-week quarantine.

“Lucci spent $195 on a rapid test at Covid Clinic, a startup from Orange County that now operates in 10 states. He estimates it took him three or four days of work to earn the money back.

“’They’re taking advantage of a bad situation,’ Lucci said. ‘I feel like it should be free to do this.’

“Under federal law, insurance companies are required to pay the full cost of COVID-19 tests in most cases. Yet a survey commissioned by inewsource shows many local providers are charging hundreds of dollars that consumers must pay upfront.

“The survey of 50 local testing providers found almost half didn’t accept insurance in some or all cases, instead placing the burden on customers to pay upfront and then ask their insurance companies to reimburse them. It also found seven providers were charging patients for medical visits or processing fees even when the tests were covered by insurance. …

“Despite the many free and low-cost sites in the county, residents said they sometimes felt desperate enough to turn to an expensive provider. inewsource spoke with seven people who paid more than $100 for COVID-19 tests because they felt they had no affordable options. While government-run sites and local pharmacies offer free tests, they may not have appointments available on short notice or get the results back quickly enough.”


This continues our national strategy of bringing transparency to health care not only on our home site, but also in partnership with other news organizations, including CBS News; WVUE Fox 8 Live and NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune in New Orleans; KQED public radio in San Francisco; KPCC public radio in Los Angeles; WLRN public radio in Miami; WUSF public radio in Tampa-St. Petersburg; their Florida partnership, Health News Florida; and MedPage Today, a provider of news, opinion and medical education to 670,000 providers, among others. Read about our national partnerships here.

We have won a ton of prizes, including the national public service gold medal with CBS from the Society of Professional Journalists – Sigma Delta Chi. This post from NiemanLab describes our partnership in New Orleans with WVUE FOX 8 Live and NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune.

Our work has been funded by a few angel investors and also by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation (via the International Women’s Media Foundation), the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York, the McCormick Foundation (via J-Lab at American University); the Lenfest Foundation; the New York State Health Foundation; and others.