Opposition Concern Over Plans To End Free Preventive Covid-19 Testing From September

At a press conference on Monday, Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said that preventive tests would not be covered by public health insurance from September, and would only be available free if prescribed by a doctor or hygiene agency. The announcement was greeted with concern from opposition parties. Photo Credit: Vlada.cz.

Czech Rep., July 14 (BD) – Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch told Radiožurnál that the Ministry is planning changes to the payment of preventive tests for Covid-19 from September 1st. At a press conference after Monday’s government meeting, Vojtěch said that preventive tests would not be covered by public health insurance, and would only be available free when prescribed by a doctor or hygiene agency. At the moment, the Czech public insurance system covers four antigen tests and two PCR tests per month. 

Vojtěch argued that insurance-paid tests are most often used for travel and recreational purposes, rather than for preventive reasons. “By September, really anyone who wanted to be vaccinated could have been vaccinated. It is clear that these preventive tests were an alternative to vaccination, and were covered by public health insurance, but they are a significant cost and they are tests that are related to travel. I do not think it is sustainable in the long term for us to pay for such tests from public health insurance.” 

Vojtěch highlighted the importance of expanding vaccination among the public, noting that the one-off payment for vaccination is more cost-effective than repeat payments for tests. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš echoed his point, in connection with the opening of two mobile vaccination centers in Prague where people do not have to register, adding that “Vaccination is a huge advantage, as people do not have to go for testing. Let’s hope that our children will return to school from September 1st, and that we will function normally. The only solution for Covid-19 is vaccination. There is no other solution.” 

According to Czech news server iRozhlas, David Šmehlík, Deputy Director of insurance provider VZP, told Radiožurnál that hundreds of millions of Czech crowns are paid each month from the public health insurance system for antigen and PCR tests. On the other hand, tests prescribed by a doctor or a hygienic station will continue to be covered by health insurance as standard, said Vojtěch. “Children under the age of 12 and those who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons will continue to have free tests. Paid vaccination is widely available for everyone else,” the minister added later on Twitter.

The announcement was criticized by opposition politicians. Vít Rakušan, the leader of STAN, called Vojtěch’s plan “incomprehensible” and stated that the government was unable to learn lessons. “We are talking about the possible onset of the pandemic in Autumn and we will hinder one of the few proven ways to prevent the rise in deaths? On the contrary, the government should prepare a comprehensive testing strategy for children returning to school with high-quality PCR tests and provide subsidized tests for companies to continue testing their employees,” said Rakušan. Vlastimil Válek, vice-chair of the TOP 09 parliamentary group, also criticized the move, arguing that it is not possible for the government to require tests on the one hand and not reimburse them on the other.

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