The government won’t specify what those ‘free’ Covid tests are costing taxpayers

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When it comes to those free COVID-19 rapid test kits, the Biden administration is reportedly anything but rapid in revealing the per-item cost to the taxpayer in what perhaps might be a violation of law in contracts of this kind.

Under the Biden plan, each household can order four at-home antigen tests from a government website, which went live on January 18, in an initiative coordinated by the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The much-touted purchase was the latest tranche in trillions of dollars in public spending in response to the pandemic. How much is the government paying for each test? And what were the terms of the agreements? The government won’t yet say, even though, by law, this information should be available,” Kaiser Health News (KHN) reported.

“Without knowing the price or how many tests each company agreed to supply, it is impossible to determine whether the U.S. government overpaid or to calculate if more tests could have been provided faster,” KHN added.

The feds awarded contracts worth approximately $2 billion to three companies, one of which is reportedly owned by a Chinese firm, for a total of 380 million test kits.

Federal contacts of $10,000 and above are supposed to be made publicly available on certain government websites, but this convention has reportedly not been followed this time around.

“Only vague information is available in DOD press releases, dated Jan. 13 and Jan. 14, that note the overall awards in the fixed-price contracts: iHealth Labs for $1.275 billion, Roche Diagnostics for $340 million, and Abbott Rapid Dx North America for $306 million. There were no specifics regarding contract standards or terms of completion — including how many test kits would be provided by each company,” KHN added.

The article’s author, Christine Spolar, apparently got the runaround, which included being hampered by inactive email addresses and nonfunctioning voice mail at the appropriate military offices, when it attempted to obtain more details from the DOD. The three companies reportedly weren’t particularly forthcoming either.

“Both the Defense and Army spokespeople, after several emails, said the contracts would have to be reviewed, citing the Freedom of Information Act that protects privacy, before release. Neither explained how knowing the price per test could be a privacy or proprietary concern,” the article noted.

In a January 1, 1981, statement on a still-active U.S. Justice Department webpage, the agency explained that “The prices in government contracts should not be secret. Government contracts are ‘public contracts,’ and the taxpayers have a right to know–with very few exceptions–what the government has agreed to buy and at what prices.”

“The cost — and, more importantly, the rate per test — would help demonstrate who is getting the best deal for protection in these covid times: the consumer or the corporation,” KHN observed.

Last week, BPR reported that more than 60 million households ordered the test kits from the government but less than half of them had allegedly received them so far.


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