As of today, the Corona citizen test is subject to a fee. But that doesn’t apply to everyone. We explain who has to pay the 3 euros, who can still be tested for free – and what experts think of this measure.
The number of infections in Germany is increasing. The nationwide incidence is now over 600 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The reason for this is the highly contagious omicron variant BA.5, which, according to the Robert Koch Institute, now dominates the infection process: According to the RKI, more than 50 percent of all cases in Germany can already be traced back to it.
Now of all times, in the middle of the summer wave, the federal government wants to abolish the free Corona citizen test for everyone and make it chargeable again. This was decided last week after the conference of federal and state health ministers to prepare a corona strategy for autumn and winter. “I would prefer it to be free. Other countries no longer have the tests,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach tweeted about the decision.
So far, every German citizen has been able to take a quick test at least once a week for free in test centers. But as of today this is no longer possible. The test should now cost three euros per person. However, this does not apply to everyone – the citizen test remains free for the following groups of people:
The following two groups were also newly admitted on Wednesday:
In order to receive the free test, those affected must present a medical certificate, certificate or credible evidence, as well as a passport or ID card. For example, anyone who has had a risky contact or received a warning on the Corona app or wants to take a test for a family party or event must pay their own share of three euros. People who visit the elderly and those in need of care at home are not exempt from the new rule and must pay their own share.
According to Lauterbach, this measure is due to the immensely high costs of an average of one billion euros per month, which, given the tight federal budget situation in autumn, can hardly be met. The abuse and the many cases of fraud that existed in connection with private test centers should also be prevented by the paid tests and stronger controls.
In future, the test centers will only receive a refund of EUR 9.50 instead of EUR 11.50. From now on, the state normally pays 6.50 euros and the citizens three euros. As Lauterbach emphasized, however, the federal states could take over their own share for the citizens at any time if, for example, the corona situation worsened there.
However, many experts consider the measure to be counterproductive. “The costs charged for the tests represent a hurdle for many people who want to gain more security through the tests,” said epidemiologist Timo Ulrichs from Berlin when asked by FOCUS Online.
“In addition, they distort the epidemiological data where rapid antigen test results are also intended to depict the dynamics of the infection,” he criticizes. Especially in autumn and winter, the tests during the expected seasonal pandemic wave, together with other measures, could help limit the effects.
Many doctors also see a potential risk from the abolition of the free rapid tests. Wolfgang Kreischer, board member of the General Practitioners Association of Berlin and Brandenburg, described the measure as a contradiction in view of the ongoing corona summer wave. “We are already noticing in the practices that there is an increase in Covid infections and then we will definitely need test centers again in the fall,” said Kreischer to “rbb24”. The doctor fears that by eliminating free tests, more infected people could come to his practice and unknowingly infect waiting patients. The doctor therefore advocates a free test offer in health authorities – also to avoid fraud in billing.
Ulrich Weigeldt, chairman of the German Association of General Practitioners, criticizes the new regulation: The plans are a bureaucracy monster with some hair-raising regulations, he said. It is not the task of the practice team to check whether someone is going to a concert in the evening, for example, and is entitled to claim. The fact that patients should provide information in a kind of self-declaration in case of doubt leads to paperwork, many questions and ambiguities.
Weigeldt made it clear that practices would be forced to set up a barge and collect three euros for some tests, which could actually only be a joke. “The general practitioners are not the money collectors of an overburdened state. In principle, it is right to limit the mass tests without cause and to increase the quality of the tests. “For this, the Wild West conditions in some test centers must also be prevented. “
Since the new regulation does not provide for free tests for people who visit or even care for the elderly and those in need of care at home, it also met with heavy criticism. Excluding these from the free tests “is a serious mistake,” warned Eugen Brysch, head of the German Foundation for Patient Protection. “The heads of government of the countries are required to reverse the error by covering the costs for these particularly vulnerable people,” said Brysch.
Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) also called for free tests to be made available to caring relatives. “It cannot be that a caring relative should pay three euros when it relieves the old people’s and nursing homes,” he explained.