How much does testing cost?
Testing is available at no cost for people who don’t have insurance or who have a doctor’s order to be tested.
People who have insurance should always consult their health plan to make sure a service is covered before seeking any medical treatment. This is especially important to remember now because many insurance companies cover COVID testing if it is medically indicated but not for people without symptoms who haven’t been in direct, sustained contact with a person with a confirmed positive test. It’s best to call your health care provider first to ask this question to avoid incurring unexpected costs.
Uninsured Montanans should call 406-444-7605 or email HHSPresumptive@mt.gov for information about how to access free testing and treatment, if needed, for the uninsured.
Why are we testing people without symptoms?
We are learning more and more about this virus every day. While still being investigated, most experts believe individuals can transmit the virus before they have symptoms. We even know of individuals who never show symptoms but can carry the virus. How much of a risk these individuals are to spreading the virus is still unknown. The earlier we can find infected people, the better job we can do to prevent a significant outbreak within our community.
Where do I get tested if I do have symptoms of COVID-19?
If you have symptoms related to COVID-19 (such as shortness of breath, fever/chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, etc.) please call your primary physician immediately. If you do not have a primary physician, call your local health department. Do not go in for testing without calling first.
Who do I contact if I have questions about COVID-19 testing being offered in my community?
Please call your local health department. A list of County and Tribal Health Departments and their contact information can be found at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/fcss/countytribalhealthdepts
What type of test is being offered?
A molecular (PCR) test will be done. Although results take a few days to be reported, this is the most sensitive and accurate test for infection of COVID-19. It will let you know if you have the virus (this is a "point in time" test so it only applies to whether or not you have the virus on the day the test is administered). Remember to continue to practice social distancing and other public health measures to prevent acquiring COVID19.
Are there other benefits to being tested?
Yes. Some people use the test to help plan for a safer visit to family and friends. To do this, it is crucial to avoid possible exposure to the virus between the time of testing and returned negative results. However, it is vital to understand if you have recently been exposed to COVID19, you may test negative but convert to positive within the 14 day incubation period of the virus.
Also, testing those with and without symptoms, and monitoring for early COVID-like symptoms presenting to our clinics and hospital, will help us establish trends and prevalence of COVID-19 in our area. This early information is crucial for us to minimize the impact (safety and economic) of this illness to our community. This kind of information will help the state determine when we can move to Phase 3 of Reopening the Big Sky.
What if I test positive?
As quickly as possible, confirmatory testing will be done to assure the initial test was accurate. During this time, you will be asked to “home quarantine” while we give instruction and encourage testing to those you have had close contact with. If truly positive, our public health team will monitor your symptoms with instructions for further care if needed.
Is the testing painful?
Absolutely not! We will be using the “self-swab” technique where you will be given a swab with instructions to swab the inside of your nose – this is a shallow technique avoiding the pain of deep swabbing.
I have questions regarding COVID-19 testing in nursing homes/assisted living facilities.
For questions regarding testing of Residents and Staff of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities, click here.
What steps are being taken to ensure
COVID-19 test specimens results are received in a timely manner?
State Public Health Laboratory continues to process tests seven days a week,
has capacity to run about 1,300 tests a day, the turnaround time is 1-2 days
once the sample arrives to the lab.
State of Montana has a contract with the
Mako lab in North Carolina that has
performed with a
1-2 day turnaround time once the sample arrives
to the lab.
State University has also begun testing and has capacity to run 500 tests a day
and is hoping to increase that capacity further.
in Bozeman, Billings and Kalispell are processing tests as well.
Why doesn't Montana provide rapid COVID-19
testing, where results are available in minutes instead of days?
The State has distributed rapid testing
analyzers (Abbott ID Now) and test kits to facilities across the state to
support COVID-19 testing. Test kits are continuing to be supplied to these
sites as well as to hospitals that already had these instruments. Additionally,
some hospitals and outpatient clinical facilities have other rapid testing
instruments that are being used for patient testing.
We continue to support
point-of-care tests across Montana as resources allow. The federal allocation
of testing kits is the limiting factor and Montana has worked with partners to
prioritize testing. Montana has distributed 15 Abbott machines across the state.
There are a number of challenges and barriers
that Montana and other states are currently facing regarding the existing and
new rapid COVID-19 tests that are available or are just being released. One
barrier is supply chain shortages of test kits for specific systems.
A second challenge is related to the
accuracy of these rapid tests and problems with false negative results.
New technology is always
emerging that we continue to evaluate
. Ensuring high quality rapid testing is just as important as
State of Montana continues to process COVID-19 tests daily at the state public
health laboratory, is building up in-state capacity through contracts with
Montana State University, hospitals in Bozeman, Kalispell and Billings and with
Mako lab in North Carolina.