New law requires insurers to cover at-home STD tests

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's a taboo topic for many -- sexually-transmitted diseases.

A new law is pushing for at-home STD testing, as California continues to see high rates of infection.

California is the first state to require health insurance plans to cover at-home tests for STDs such as chlamydia, HIV and syphilis.

According to health leaders in the Valley, this is a step forward in preventing the spread of infections.

State data from 2019 shows Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Merced counties had infection rates higher than the overall state rate.

"We have a huge challenge among our community that we need to tackle," said Leticia Berber, Fresno County Health Dept. health educator.

Fresno County data shows an overall increase in chlamydia cases from 2014 to 2019 but it dropped in 2020, and health officials believe the pandemic played a role in the decrease.

"During 2020 clinics closed, providers we're not seeing patients -- which prevented, or just gave us a more challenging factor here in Fresno County, of individuals already not testing," Berber said.

She added that some individuals are already uncomfortable talking about the topic which keeps them from getting tested.

Berber believes this new law will break down that barrier.

"Fresno County, our community is very reserved," she explained. "We're hoping that these test kits done at home will assist this individuals that just don't feel comfortable going into a clinic."

Rural areas, such as Tulare and Kings counties, have their own barriers to testing -- access to healthcare and cost.

"If it's not affordable, then even if they want to, they cannot do it," said Dr. Gurvinder Kaur, with Adventist Health.

Action News checked Amazon and found at-home tests ranging from $49 to at-most $188.

Dr. Kaur said she can see why some folks would be more willing to take a test at-home, and now its more likely with insurers required to cover it.

"It is going to be a much more beneficial way of getting folks that access to the testing," she said.

Valley health officials say they expect STD rates to increase now that more people have access to testing, but said this is good information that helps in the long-run.

"We're able to identify those areas where they need help," said Berber. "That's where we're able to focus on and really allocate all of our resources in that area."

As of right now, the law has only been applied to private insurance plans. For those on Medicaid, it's expected to kick in sometime later this year.
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