High-end delivery services are entering the Covid test market as demand for testing continues to soar in the US, with some pivoting to offer Covid tests alongside “wellness” products such as face creams or Botox injections.
FastAF – a delivery startup serving San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York – is one such startup, with a business model offering “premium essentials” like CBD sparkling water, high-end skincare and AirPods delivered to your door within two hours or less. Die maatskappy, recently valued $200m, began selling at-home Covid tests about two weeks ago, according to the company. Under a “Covid-19 Home Tests & Essentials” page, the app lists an assortment of products: three different types of rapid tests, cold-pressed juice shots, masks, and several types of premium hand sanitizers (some costing up to $35.99 a bottle).
Two brands of Covid tests sold on FastAF, including Abbott’s BinaxNOW, have a sticker price of $39.99 - 67% higher than the typical retail price of $24. Steeds, in San Francisco, they sold out last week.
Luxury wellness delivery services have also entered the Covid testing market. Drip Hydration – a company that delivers $299 IV treatments for issues like hangovers and food poisoning directly to your home in over 50 cities – is now offering at-home Covid testing.
The company’s at-home Covid tests – which are nurse-administered – cost between $249 en $449. The company also offers Covid treatments such as a round of monoclonal antibody IV therapy ($999-$1,999) and IV bags of Super Immune Boost ($399), a blend of vitamin C, antioxidants and zinc.
“Well worth the cost to determine if I could end precautionary self-isolation and rejoin my family as soon as possible, especially given long wait periods for standard PCR tests in the Bay Area (it would have taken 5+ days to test and get results elsewhere),” wrote one Yelp reviewer from San Francisco. “Thank you Drip Hydration!”
Velour Medical – which provides in-home Botox, fillers and chemical peels – uses a similar model. The New York City-based company bills itself as providing “luxury cosmetic services and medical treatments”, and trained professionals administer either cosmetic facial fillers or nasal swabs to clients.
One review on the site applauds the range of services: “I have used velour medical for concierge covid testing MANY times as well as for some (baie) of Botox.”
Amid a nationwide shortage of Covid-19 tests, the US government has tried to take various steps to keep rapid tests accessible. In a deal that expired last week, the Biden administration had two grocery giants commit to selling test kits “at cost” for $14. Maandag, the administration announced that, starting on Saturday, private insurers must cover the cost of eight at-home tests a month through in-network providers. And Americans are awaiting the distribution of 500m free at-home tests, though that process may take months to conclude. Intussen, US lawmakers from New York to California have warned against price-gouging for at-home tests.
While premium test delivery services may not violate price gouging laws, they have raised questions about who can access testing at a time when US daily Covid cases are hitting record highs.
“When there’s a profit to be made, you can count on American companies to step in,” Dr Bob Wachter, chief of medicine and an expert on Covid at the University of California, San Francisco, said in an email.
Wachter anticipates that testing will become more accessible later this month as cases peak. “This seems like a brief potential windfall – I ordered tests on Amazon ($18/set) and they came in three days," hy het bygevoeg. “It seems like the federal intervention is likely to kick in soon as well. So I suspect this is a short-lived profiteering phenomenon, which will probably go away in a few weeks.”
A spokesperson for Fast AF said the company marks up some of its products, which can be standard for middleman companies, but not all of them. “The value that FastAF shoppers receive comes from access to their preferred products and the convenience of rapid delivery, always in two hours or less,” said a FastAF spokesperson.
“We try to price our service at a level which takes into account the cost of the supplies, the nursing, the dispatch, the clinical oversight, and at a level which allows us to retain good talent and pay our staff appropriately,” said Dr Abe Malkin, founder and CEO of Drip Hydration.
Velour Medical did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.