NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Patients in a crunch to get COVID-19 PCR tests quickly are shelling out hundreds of dollars to speed up results.
But as CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Monday, some are learning not even money can make that happen.READ MORE: New York Workers' Compensation Board Offers Resources For COVID Long Haulers
The door at ClearMD’s Upper West Side location warns consumers the 48-hour PCR test will take 48 hours from the time it reaches the lab, not from the time you get swabbed.
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Inside, a menu gives the option to pay $150 to get the results by 8 p.m. the next day, or almost $400 for a two-hour turnaround.
When West Village resident John Bowen was catching a flight last week to the United Kingdom, he paid the $150 and got swabbed Sunday morning. But on Monday, before his 10 p.m. flight, he still had nothing.
“I’m waiting there at the check-in place in a panic. I kept calling that number. Oh, I texted them, and what I got back was a general text,” Bowen said. “Never got a phone call back. I emailed them.”
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Susan Parker of Ardsley up in Westchester County drove in with her two sons for the 24-hour test. She said she also couldn’t get a hold of anyone when the results were not back yet. They missed Monday’s flight.
“It took more than two days. They don’t answer the phone. They don’t respond to emails. They don’t respond to tweets, Facebook message, so I drove back into the city to try to find someone to talk to,” Parker said. “I just want transparency and honesty. Just tell me it’s not going to be 24 hours.”
After Rozner spoke with the medical director, he called both customers to provide a full refund, which the company promises for late results, and told CBS2, “Half my staff is out with COVID. Generally, we get our results out on our time, 98-99% of the time, but it’s difficult when you are short-staffed and we have an increase in the positivity rate.”
He added before the Omicron variant arrived the company saw 1,000 patients a day and now that number has tripled.READ MORE: Grafton Thomas Found Not Fit For Trial In Deadly Machete Attack At Rcokland County Rabbi's Home
The company uses a Queens lab, which is also allegedly short-staffed, but he said even the clock on the 24-hour promise only starts when the specimen reaches the lab.
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New York Attorney General Letitia James has sent several warnings to companies about providing accurate turnaround times, including Sameday Health.
Evan Willner of the Upper East Side paid $25 for a 36-hour test, after experiencing some symptoms last week, but said he has still not received the results.
“I had to isolate. My family had to isolate. We couldn’t really go to work. We couldn’t see other family because we didn’t know if we were going to test positive. We didn’t know if we were infectious,” Willner said.
In a statement, Sameday Health said, in part, “For the last week, we have been experiencing extremely high volumes of demand for COVID tests and results from our lab partners were taking longer than anticipated. we immediately began notifying clients, directly in communication on our website.”
The spokesperson said the company is addressing the attorney general’s concerns.
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The Better Business Bureau‘s Claire Rosenzweig advises consumers ask, “Which lab is it going to? Look at the terms and conditions. What are they saying about refunds? What are they saying about delivery times?”
The attorney general’s office said if companies are not delivering on a promise, consumers can file a complaint or call 800-771-7755.
James on Tuesday issued a warning to ClearMD to stop misrepresenting turnaround times for test results. She is also demanding refunds for consumers who paid for expedited results.MORE NEWS: Appeals Judge Leaves N.Y. Mask Mandate In Place, For Now
The customer for Sameday Health in this story did get his refund on Monday.