Thanks to Provision Authored by U.S. Senator Tina Smith, A Second Key Coronavirus Test Will Also Be Free to All Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. [04/15/20]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), who in March successfully included free coronavirus testing for all Americans in legislation responding to the pandemic, said that this week top federal health officials have clarified for her that a second important “antibody” test to help determine which Americans have been infected and recovered will also be free under her testing provision. 

Sen. Smith said health experts, including those at Mayo Clinic, have said such “serology” tests, also known as antibody tests, could help determine who may have developed immunity to COVID-19, and will greatly assist efforts to identify individuals in areas where potential immunity is key.  Those include health care workers, screening for potential plasma donors, and helping advance the most promising vaccine candidates.

Sen. Smith has pushed for months to ramp up diagnostic testing across the nation to help determine the breadth of the pandemic and keep Americans safe.  In March, the second of three coronavirus packages which have already passed Congress contained her provisions to ensure all testing to diagnose those with COVID-19 is free.  Now, she said both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have issued guidance that the “serology” testing to determine whether people have been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies – and perhaps immunity – will also be free.

“If we listen to our nation’s health experts, we know that testing continues to be an essential key to getting a handle on this pandemic and eventually restarting our hard-hit economy.  That’s why I keep pushing the Administration to significantly ramp up diagnostic testing – at no cost to patients – to first determine who has this virus,” said Sen. Smith. “As we move forward, we will also need a second test that answers the different – but just as important – question of who has already had the virus, recovered, and developed immunity to COVID-19.  That is where antibody testing comes in.  It’s important that as this second test is developed and comes on line, that my free-testing provision also ensures that Americans can also get it at no cost.”

Sen. Smith said that currently there is only one anti-body test that has received federal approval.  But this week, Mayo Clinic announced it is launching its own test to identify those with COVID-19 antibodies.  It is one of more than 70 developers working on such tests.

Beyond securing free coronavirus testing, Sen. Smith is leading a push on the Trump Administration to increase transparency and information about the state of the nation’s testing efforts, and to developed a plan to ensure adequate testing in being done in Minnesota and across the country.