Little Rock Here’s an interesting issue that will increasingly become part of the public and private conflict around the polarizing issues of the pandemic: who pays for Covid-19 tests? Underneath the issue of mandates around masks and vaccination, testing is still vital. Often it is the twin in the either-or when workers and others are presented with the choice to either be vaccinated or to present a test conducted 72-hours earlier that says they are virus-free. So, who pays for the unvaccinated to be tested in different situations?
During most of the pandemic in the United States, the government at various levels has footed the bill for testing. An individual test is not the most expensive thing in the fight against the pandemic, but it adds up on a regular basis. Today, in most states, it is still easy to access free testing sites. As the vaccination rates increased, many sites closed as demand wavered. Now, as mandatory vaccinations are being required, sometimes coupled with the testing alternative, reports are starting to emerge that demand for testing is increasing, and public authorities are bristling about whether they are being scammed to pay the bills.
We’re seeing a lot more carrots now, but the stick is around, too. To be in the stands for the coming New Orleans Saints games or in that number at the LSU football stadium, fans will have to submit proof of at least one-shot of vaccine or a recent negative test. Those are private pleasures and juicy carrots for some, but the stick on the other hand is not just sitting at home watching the games on TV, but should also be the fans going into their pockets to pay for the testing, not the taxpayers. To get in many bars and restaurants, you now have to show one or the other. Sorry, but the unvaccinated should pay for the test as part of the price of their protest or reticence.
Employers are clearly going to be enforcing the sharp edge of these sticks. Delta Airlines has already indicated that it is raising the health insurance rates by $200 per month on any of its workers who are unvaccinated. Other companies, like United Airlines, some tech companies, universities and others that are requiring proof of vaccinations or testing, are certainly not going to tell their workers that they should send them the bill for their test, when they want the workers vaccinated. Remember a positive test could lead to a business shutting down and having to quarantine, which is a pretty big incentive to insist on full vaccinations and refusing to be stiffed for the testing bill.
Just to add more flavor, there are different kinds of tests. I heard a warning recently that a company was requiring a particularly rigorous kind of testing and not your simple home-brew option, and warning workers that the results might take more than a couple of days on this test, so workers needed to be aware and plan in advance.
The full outlines of the new testing issues aren’t yet clear, but since there is money involved on both sides of the divide, be prepared for a lot of sparks to start flying soon. As organizers, we know that protest always extracts a price, but it is unclear if the current crop of anti-vaxers has put the price in their equation.