State enlists private contractor to boost COVID-19 testing dramatically

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The Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday announced it has reached an agreement with a subsidiary of United Health Group to expand COVID-19 testing dramatically in Indiana.

The department said OptumServe plans to open 20 testing sites in Indiana National Guard armories around the state within the next week that are expected to test 100,000 Hoosiers within 30 days. That’s more than the 87,100 people who have been tested so far in Indiana since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the health department.

The state said OptumServe will expand to 50 sites by mid-May, allowing up to 30,000 residents to be tested weekly.

Each site will be open for at least eight hours per day, Monday through Friday.

None of the initial sites are in Marion County, but one will be in Johnson County.

Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer with the department of health, said they selected areas where testing is most needed.

“We’re taking into consideration going to areas that probably did not have or have not had access to testing previously,” Weaver said.

OptumServe will test anyone with symptoms, anyone who has had close contact with someone who has tested positive or residents of congregate living settings, the state said. Patients will have to show insurance, if they have it, but the test will be free.

“You won’t be turned away if you don’t have insurance,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said.

Anyone looking to get tested will be able to access an online portal from Optum where they will report what symptoms they are experiencing and schedule an appointment to be tested. The portal is expected to open 48 hours before a testing site opens.

OptumServe will be responsible for collecting the swab specimen, managing the testing and reporting the data. The company will provide its own supplies, personal protective equipment, staff and test kits.

Those being tested should expect results within 48 hours, on average, the state said.

“I think one of the great benefits of partnering with OptumServe is that they come with the full package,” Weaver said.

OptumServe is part of Optum, a division of United Health Group that provides federal health services to the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs and other organizations.

The company said it provided more than 2.9 million health services to 350,000 National Guard and Reserve members across the country last year.

Indiana is the second state to sign a COVID-19 testing contract with OptumServe, following California. California announced its contract April 23.

The one-month contract with OptumServe is costing Indiana $17.9 million, but Weaver said federal grants could cover some, if not all, of the expense. The contract could also be extended and modified to adjust to changes in testing needs after the first month.

“It will be really exciting to see how much we increase testing over the next week and month,” Weaver said.

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