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COVID-19 antibody testing is reimbursed in Germany
On May 7, 2020, the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV) announced that antibodies testing for COVID-19 will be reimbursement. The findings of the test must be communicated within 24 hours.
Antibody tests can be useful in certain cases with symptoms typical for COVID-19. Especially in the case of mild courses, it is not always possible to detect the pathogen directly using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test from the second week after the onset of symptoms. SARS-CoV-2 infection can then be detected indirectly by serological methods. An examination for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies to determine the titer increase or to identify a seroconversion can be useful one week after the onset of symptoms.
This requires two blood samples every 7 to 14 days. The second sample should not be taken before the third week after the onset of symptoms and must be examined in the same laboratory. The blood is tested for total or specifically for IgG antibodies. IgA and IgM antibody determinations have significantly lower specificity and should, therefore, not to be performed.
A positive result of serological testing is considered as indirect pathogen detection. The initiating doctor and also the laboratory doctor must report the infection to the health authority, as in the case of a PCR test.
Testing without a direct temporal reference to clinical symptoms of COVID-19, for example, to check immunity, should not be carried out. Also, rapid tests cannot be billed.
The antibody test itself is billed via the EBM fee order item 32641 “Similar tests identifying antibody specificity” with a tariff of €11.10. The maximum value (for multiple tests) for the examination is €66.30.
The full list of COVID-19 tests presented on the German market as of May 8, 2020, can be found here.
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