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COVID-19 Testing

Back to COVID-19 Provider Update Center

Blue Cross is continuing to update information related to COVID-19 testing based on guidance and instruction provided by the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO) and CMS. Codes related to testing and specimen collection are included below. For COVID-19 diagnosis codes see our COVID-19 Treatment page.

When making referrals to laboratories for COVID-19 testing, always use a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama in-network lab. A list of in-network labs is available at AlabamaBlue.com/providers/FindALab

Note: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is working with providers to ensure patient access to affordable care during this crisis. We encourage out-of-network providers to accept our payment for COVID-19 testing as payment in full and to work together with us to protect our members from financial harm.

COVID-19 Testing: Clarification on Testing for Return to College/Work

As you may be aware, COVID-19 tests are currently being required by most Alabama colleges and universities as a condition for a student’s return to campus, regardless of whether the student has any symptoms or exposure. This has created an increase in the number of patients requesting testing as well as confusion regarding coverage.

The good news is that the state of Alabama is providing testing free of charge to students through GuideSafe Entry Testing, which is being funded through Federal CARES Act funds allocated by Governor Ivey. COVID-19 testing is required for students who reside on campus for many public or private four-year colleges and all two-year colleges in the state of Alabama. For other schools, COVID-19 testing is strongly encouraged but not required. Specific testing protocols are directed by each campus. All students should receive an email explaining the program and the procedure to follow in order to register for testing. Students must follow the guidelines and register through the web link provided in the email in order for testing to be covered.

To clarify, our coverage for COVID-19 testing is outlined below:

Covered

Medically Appropriate COVID-19 Testing – Testing to detect or diagnose COVID-19 in an individual when there is presence of a potential COVID-19 symptom or actual or suspected exposure to a person with COVID-19.

Non-Covered

Surveillance COVID-19 Testing – Testing for patients to return to work or school to rule out the possibility of COVID-19 in the absence of symptoms or exposure. Federal government guidance on this legislation issued June 23, 2020, states that group health plans and insurers are not required to pay for COVID-19 tests that are ordered for surveillance purposes. This testing is covered for students through the GuideSafe Entry Testing Program. Surveillance testing is not covered for employees returning to work.

Testing and Specimen Collection Codes

COVID-19 testing and specimen collection codes are listed in the tables below. 

Testing Procedure Codes

Code Description Fee*
U0001 CDC 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) real-time rt-pcr diagnostic panel $35.91
U0002 Non-CDC laboratory tests for SARS-CoV-2/2019-nCoV (COVID-19) $51.31
U0003 Infectious agent detection by nucleic acid (DNA or RNA); severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]), amplified probe technique, making use of high throughput technologies as described by CMS-2020-01-R $100.00
U0004 2019-nCoV Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2/2019-nCoV (COVID-19), any technique, multiple types or subtypes (includes all targets), non-CDC, making use of high throughput technologies as described by CMS-2020-01-R $100.00
0224U Antibody, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARSCoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]), includes titer(s), when performed $42.13
86328 Immunoassay for infectious agent antibody(ies), qualitative or semiquantitative, single step method (e.g., reagent strip); severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) $45.23
86413 Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) antibody, quantitative $42.13
87426 Infectious agent antigen detection by immunoassay technique, (eg, enzyme immunoassay [EIA], enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA], immunochemiluminometric assay [IMCA]) qualitative or semiquantitative, multiple-step method; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (eg, SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19]) $31.02
86769 Antibody; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) $42.13
87635 COVID-19 Infectious agent detection by nucleic acid (DNA or RNA); amplified probe technique $51.31

Specimen Collection Codes

Code Description Fee*
C9803

Specimen collection billed by hospital outpatient department

C9803 should be billed with an appropriate laboratory revenue code for payment consideration.

$23.46
G2023

Specimen collection for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]), any specimen source

Note: G2023 applies to independent labs.

$23.46
G2024 Specimen collection for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]), from an individual in a skilled nursing facility or by a laboratory on behalf of a home health agency, any specimen source $25.46
99211

Evaluation and Management Code Level 1 can be used for COVID-19 physician office specimen collection except when the provider is reporting another Evaluation and Management code for a concurrent service. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is allowing incident-to flexibility for COVID-19 specimen collection by network physician offices as long as the credentialed network practitioner is on the premises at the time of collection.

$26.00


Notes: 

  • Testing codes U0002, 86328, 87426, and 87635 are included in the Preferred Medical Doctor (PMD) Agreement Exhibit I - Physician In-Office Laboratory Procedures. 
  • Codes C9803, G2023, G2024, U0001, U0002, U0003, U0004, 0224U, 86328, 86413, 86769, 87426, and 87635 are not subject to EAPG pricing.

*Blue Cross typically does not communicate fees in this manner. These in-network fees are being published outside our fee schedules to assist providers in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

COVID-19 Panel Testing Guidance

As the demand continues for COVID-19 testing, we are advising providers that panel testing should be ordered only if it is medically necessary for the patient. Routinely performing respiratory panels is not appropriate in the absence of supportive clinical symptoms. In most cases, only a specific test to determine the presence of COVID-19 is needed.

At some point in the near future, medical necessity reviews may be used to determine if panel tests given to patients were needed. Providers who order panel tests should note in the medical record the reason for such a test.

Use of Serologic Antibody Tests for COVID-19

Guidance on the use of serologic antibody tests for COVID-19 advises that it is not appropriate to diagnose an acute infection. Serologic antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis for diagnosis and can only aid in the diagnosis of patients in conjunction with a medical review of symptoms and results of other laboratory tests.

Serologic antibody testing specific for COVID-19 can reveal if a patient has been exposed to the virus and had an immune response to the virus; however, it will not reveal if the patient is currently infected.

Testing Resources: