Why would getting reimbursed for Covid-19 testing ever involve a fax machine?

Do you have a printer? Do you have a fax machine? If not, you might have trouble getting your “free” at-home Covid-19 test paid for by your health insurer.

As of January 15, Americans with private insurance are able to submit their at-home testing bills to their insurer in order to get reimbursed. But for some people, that may be easier said than done. Some insurers are letting their customers submit their bills online, but others are requiring people to physically print a piece of paper that resembles an IRS form, fill it out, and then either send it to their insurer through the mail or fax it.

A quick scan of social media finds Americans who sound baffled by what they are being asked to do in order to secure free Covid-19 tests in the middle of a public health emergency.

People can also order free tests through a new government website, covidtests.gov. But they are limited to four tests per household, which may not be enough for the people who have been exposed or need to test regularly.

Asking a patient in the year 2022 to send a fax in order to have their medical services paid for may sound laughable. But it’s a microcosm of the burdens the US health system puts on Americans in order to receive necessary health care.

“Our health care system is mind-numbingly complex,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, “and that complexity takes its toll on patients in terms of time, access, and affordability.”

The United States health system, more than any other in the developed world, forces patients to manage their health care on their own. They pay a lot of their own money for medical care. They have to make sure their specific doctor is covered by their specific insurer.

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