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Kokua Line: Oahu’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites have providers seek federal reimbursement for uninsured

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Question: How does the city pay for the drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinics it supports?

Answer: You and other readers have asked about who funds, organizes and runs the mass testing events held regularly on Oahu, usually in large parking lots controlled by the city. Alexander Zannes, spokesman for Honolulu County Mayor Kirk Caldwell, answers your question and others on the same topic:

“The city works with private organizations that support general testing for the public. Each organization arranges for payment of tests through patient insurance or through its own private funds. The city allows use of and access to city property for the testing, which has been city parks and parking lots after coordination with the Department of Parks and Recreation on their availability. One condition for use of city property by those organizations undertaking COVID-19 testing to the public was that those without health insurance would be tested free of charge. The providing organization essentially bears these costs through an understanding with the city.”

Q: Do medical groups bid to host these events?

A: “The city takes requests from medical groups to do testing across Oahu that want to use city property (parks, for example). Our office coordinates availability of parks and assists with the necessary permitting for the requester. Our office has assisted with arranging each.”

Q: How are the medical providers paid?

A: “Their testing fees are covered by (the) health insurance of those tested. Those without insurance are covered by each of these providers, as noted above.”

Q: Does the city pay a flat fee regardless of the number of people served? Or does the city pay per test? Is CARES Act money used to support these clinics?

A: “The city does not pay for testing of people. The city provides traffic mitigation and in-kind support from the Hawaii state Department of Transportation for street marking and control and on-site security through the Honolulu Police Department.

“Testing organizations that provide for drive-thru testing offer their services to the public because they are motivated to support the community. This point is brought home each time our office schedules these tests. Costs for testing, including personnel and other related costs, are borne by the organizations providing the tests. I’ll defer comments on how providing organizations cover those costs of testing to them.”

As Zannes indicated, these clinics are not run by a single entity; recent providers include Premier Medical Group Hawaii, which has run numerous mass-testing sites on Oahu, and Kalihi Kai Urgent Care. At the testing site, the medical provider collects health insurance information from each participant. Providers are reimbursed through insurance for participants who have health coverage. For participants who lack insurance, providers can seek reimbursement through the federal “COVID-19 Claims Reimbursement to Health Care Providers and Facilities for Testing and Treatment of the Uninsured Program,” which is funded in part through the CARES Act. Providers and others seeking information about eligibility and reimbursements can find it at, on the website of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).


A thousand “thank yous” for the good Samaritans who found our three lost envelopes. One envelope was returned in our neighbor’s mailbox and the other two were mailed to the correct addresses. Two of these stamped and sealed envelopes contained our real property tax payments. Needless to say, we are very grateful for your kind deeds. — Manoa senior citizens

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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