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Embry Health shutters dozens of COVID-19 testing sites in Arizona

Embry Health has been Arizona's largest provider of free COVID-19 testing. But starting Tuesday, they’re shuttering 60 testing sites throughout Arizona and charging uninsured patients $100 per test.

The federal government stopped reimbursing providers for testing uninsured patients in late March — the Health Resources & Services Administration warned that it was out of funds, and Congress has yet to provide additional funding.

Embry initially continued to provide no-costs tests to everyone. But without federal reimbursement, CEO Raymond Embry now says the company can no longer afford it. 

“Fifty percent of our patients on a daily basis do not have health insurance,” he said. “So there's no way that it's possible to run our sites the same way, if we weren't getting paid for 50% of the patients or customers that are coming to the location.”

Insured patients can still receive free-testing because Embry bills insurance providers.

Testing site closures will also disproportionately impact underserved communities, particularly in rural Arizona. Embry noted the company’s closure in Sanders in Apache County leaves the community without any COVID-19 testing options.

“We consider that really tragic because we've been able to provide free COVID-19 testing to everyone regardless of insurance status, right from the beginning of the pandemic,” he said. “So this is the first time that the uninsured patients, in many of which are in underserved communities, will not have access to free testing.”

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.