SAVE FREE PCR TESTING FOR UNINSURED AND ALL MA RESIDENTS
Save Free Fast PCR Testing in Massachusetts
On March 31, 2023 Governor Maura Healey closed the state’s “Stop the Spread” COVID PCR testing program, ending access to testing for undocumented, uninsured residents of the state. This rolling back of healthcare access is a dangerous precedent for Massachusetts, which has one of the best public health infrastructures in the country.
With the end of the state and Federal Public Health Emergency, PCR testing will no longer be free. We will need a doctor's order to access PCR tests, and insurance may only cover if the person is symptomatic, or has been exposed. Since 40% of COVID spread is from asymptomatic infection, PCR surveillance testing is a necessary tool for prevention. Free fast PCR testing is especially essential as we work to protect people who are most likely to see serious impacts from COVID infection: immunocompromised, disabled, elderly and other high-risk people. This will particularly impact Black, Indigenous, Latinx, elderly, low income and disabled people, who have suffered disproportionately in the pandemic.
The state of Massachusetts should pay for and require community health centers to provide free PCR testing to their communities, which was the norm in earlier stages of the pandemic. Massachusetts should continue to pay for at-home testing kits through Pixel, and maintain testing sites through CIC and other locations.
PCR tests detect infection both earlier than rapid antigen tests, and produce significantly less false negatives. Because access to COVID treatment like Paxlovid requires a positive test, uninsured and low-income people who are unable to access testing, will see additional barriers to treatment. Finally, because most rapid tests are not reported, our state and federal tracking systems depend on PCR tests to convey to the public the risk of transmission.
I write asking you to maintain access to free, fast accessible PCR COVID tests through 1) directing state funding to community health centers, and requiring them to test community members for free and 2) maintaining funding for mail-in at-home tests through Pixel or another service and 3) maintain the stand-alone testing sites through CIC health and others.
COVID, an airborne virus, is a persistent threat to all our well-being. It continues to be deadly especially for elderly, disabled and immunocompromised people, leading to more than 32,266 deaths in the US alone since the start of 2023. It is a race and class issue, disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous and Latinx including from death, caregiver loss, and severe disease, and pediatric deaths. Because of the lack of layered public health mitigations like ventilation, masks, tests and contact tracing, and accessible vaccine and booster programs, the virus causing COVID continues to mutate, evading our existing vaccines and treatments. In the US, as many as 30% of COVID patients go on to develop Long COVID, a varying array of chronic and often disabling conditions many people get after COVID infection, even if the COVID initially seemed "mild.” Long COVID encompasses over 200 symptoms ranging from debilitating fatigue to blood clots, kidney failure, and heart disease. Vaccination slightly reduces but does not eliminate the risk of Long COVID.
Public policy can and must protect us. Save Public Health in the Commonwealth. Keep Fast PCR tests Free in Massachusetts.