Ministry paid millions more for first coronavirus tests

In the first months of the corona crisis, the Ministry of Health paid more for corona tests than could be expected on the basis of the cost price. According to the Ministry, the amount – 95 euros per test – was determined after the advice of experts because no objective insight could be gained into the ‘real costs‘. After two months the amount was adjusted because it turned out to be too high.

A coron test is free of charge for the person being tested, but of course it costs money. Labs charge costs for carrying out the test and GGDs for setting up the test lanes.

Advice doctor

Inquiries by Nieuwsuur show that the original rate of 95 euros included an amount for medical advice from a specialist, while for tests from GGD teststreets there is usually no specialist involved. As of 1 June, the rate was therefore reduced to 65 euros, partly after a calculation by the Dutch Healthcare Authority (Nederlandse Zorgautoriteit).

At that time more than 360,000 people had already been tested for the higher rate. In total, an estimated 11 million euros has been paid in additional costs for the advice of doctors who, in many cases, have not been provided.

Paul Savelkoul, medical microbiologist at the university hospital in Maastricht, doesn’t think the price of 95 euros is unreasonable. “In the first weeks of the crisis, doctors did consult and advise on testing. That took a lot of time then. That will be compensated in this way.” The fact that the rate has been lower since June is logical, he thinks, because testing has become more and more routine and requires less attention.

Health economist Xander Koolman also thinks it is logical that the rate has been lowered. “People enter the test street and hear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ two days later. The advice of a doctor does not belong in that rate”

200 euros per test

Nieuwsuur also examined how the amount relates to the costs incurred by laboratories. The larger independent laboratories claim to spend between 30 and 40 euros per test. Hospital laboratories, which often have a larger overhead, mention amounts between 50 and 60 euros per test.

The expectation is that this amount will decrease as more tests are carried out on a larger scale. “In my best estimation, this amount could be even further down,” says Koolman. Especially large labs, which can test cheaply, make a big profit. A lab that does a thousand tests per day makes tons of profit per month.

There are now also commercial providers on the market. These often serve employees of care and educational organizations who need to be tested quickly, but cannot go to the GGD teststreets. The amounts demanded by commercial providers amount to 200 euros per test. They then guarantee a result within 24 hours.

Healthcare and education associations have asked Minister Hugo de Jonge to give priority to test lanes for their staff, but the minister says today that this is quite a complicated puzzle. “Because if the waiting times for the rest of the staff increase dramatically as a result, we’ll have another problem. I will get back to you as soon as possible. I think the end of the week.”