DeSantis says coronavirus testing is free in Florida; lab in Hialeah charges $150

Larkin Community Hospital’s private lab charges city of Hialeah $150 per COVID-19 test

HIALEAH, Fla. – Although Gov. Ron DeSantis said COVID-19 testing during the coronavirus pandemic is free of charge in Florida, the Larkin Community Hospital’s Cardiotropic Labs has been charging $150 per test.

While free testing was ongoing for first responders at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens and at Marlins Park in Little Havana, the lab was running a for-profit drive-through service in Hialeah.

Dr. Jack Michel, the CEO of Larkin Community Hospital, released a statement on Friday saying the lab has charged the city of Hialeah and federal prisons for tests.

“Those found to be infected have included health care and hospital professionals, first responders, and other citizens of the community who would be able to further spread the virus if not detected," Michel wrote.

Gladys Ruiz disagrees. She said her son was experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms when he decided to go get tested outside of the Larkin Community Hospital campus in Hialeah. He didn’t know it was going to cost him $150.

“They are taking advantage of everyone in general, especially people who may not be able to afford this test,” Ruiz said.

Larkin Community Hospital was offering the service as members of the Florida National Guard, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel and Miami-Dade officers worked long hours to set up and run drive-through testing sites in Miami-Dade County.

Michel said Larkin Community Hospital is cooperating with local and state authorities. DeSantis asked Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to investigate the private lab for possible price-gouging.

Here is Larkin Community Hospital’s statement:

Dr. Jack Michel, the CEO of Larkin Community Hospital:

There appears to be some kind of misunderstanding regarding the services provided by Cardiotropic Labs, a Larkin Community Hospital subsidiary. I want to clarify that our laboratory is a molecular laboratory which was started a year ago thanks to the efforts of a Viral Myocarditis survival. This is a reference lab which provides cardiac biopsy virology interpretation services to many academic institutions throughout the United States. The lab has the only BIOBANK of viruses that attack the heart.

In January, we were informed by our affiliates in Germany, who were in contact with Doctors in Wuhan about the COVID19 and its potential to become a global pandemic. We decided to invest in high output equipment to prepare for the possibility of a pandemic.

As a private laboratory, we incurred all the expenses of equipment, processing and personnel to establish our Drive Thru at Palm Springs Campus. As a result we charge a fee of $150 to our clients who want to use this service. The same price we charge the City of Hialeah, Federal prisons, and other employers.

We greatly increased the availability of coronavirus testing in Miami-Dade County as everyone continues to work together to battle the continuing global pandemic. Through our testing services over 125 positive COVID19 cases have been identified in less than a week and are now able to self isolate and prevent the spread of the virus and save lives. Those found to be infected have included health care and hospital professionals, first responders, and other citizens of the community who would be able to further spread the virus if not detected. We look forward to working with all federal, state, and local officials to stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

About the Authors:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.