County: No, you’re not required to pay for free COVID-19 tests

County officials are urging people who have received invoices for the free COVID tests they received back in May to ignore them. The bills were mistakenly sent to Island County residents.

The county partnered with WhidbeyHealth to test more than 2,600 people during two weeks of May, including health care workers and a sampling of community volunteers.

The tests were provided at no cost to the people being tested.

The county established a contract with Northwest Laboratory in Bellingham to run the samples, which cost $125 each. Whatever insurance companies don’t cover for each individual, the county will make up the cost with funds from the CARES Act.

However, Whidbey residents were bemused to find bills for the COVID tests in their mailbox last week.

Island County Public Health Director Keith Higman said it’s still not clear how the billing error occurred. The agreement with the lab was that the client would be invoiced for the work, and Island County Public Health was listed as the client.

The county has yet to receive an invoice from the lab. Higman is not sure what percentage of the cost will be paid by insurance companies and what will be paid by the county.

County Commissioner Jill Johnson said about 140 people received bills. She is advising people not to pay the bills and they will receive a new bill from the lab showing a zero balance.

If they have already paid the bills, Higman said the county can reimburse the citizens if they have proof of payment, such as a receipt.

Johnson and Higman encouraged people with questions to contact Island County Public Health. The department’s hotline is 360-678-2301.