Research Shows How Hawaii Labs Profited From PCR Testing 

June 15, 2022 by Alexa Hornbeck
Research Shows How Hawaii Labs Profited From PCR Testing 
In this undated photo entitled "Last Blast," a breaking wave crashes on the North Shore of Oahu near Haleiwa, Hawaii. (Clark Little via AP)

study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine on June 9 from researchers in Hawaii finds that independent labs are earning huge profits from Polymerase Chain Reaction testing, which could impact health care premiums. 

Prior research has examined the variation in the charges for PCR tests in laboratories, but the financial return from the COVID-19 testing has not been explored.

To better investigate the financial return, the researchers examined unique taxation data from Hawaii, and identified 21 taxpayers who were independent diagnostic laboratories that conducted COVID-19 PCR tests. 

The monthly revenue was aggregated for these labs from July 2018 to November 2021, and the same 21 labs were tracked for the entire period. The monthly total revenues were then plotted together with the monthly total PCR testing volume from data provided by the Hawaii Department of Health.



The findings show that the pre-pandemic monthly total revenue of independent labs in Hawaii was $19 million to $22 million, fluctuating between $28 million and $36 million after November 2020, and growing the fastest from May 2020 to December 2020. 

From May 2020 to December 2020, independent labs in Hawaii experienced rapid revenue growth, earning at least a $10 profit per COVID-19 PCR test, which was driven by reimbursement rates from commercial insurance plans. 


The researcher found that although patients do not have cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing, the consequences of labs profiting on PCR tests will likely result in higher insurance premiums for patients.

Alexa can be reached at [email protected]

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