Frustrations grew along with COVID cases over the holiday season thanks to a shortage of at-home rapid tests as Americans traveled to see family amid the surge in cases from the more transmissible omicron variant. Now the Biden administration is working to make COVID-19 home tests more accessible, both by increasing supply and bringing down costs.
Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans. The Biden administration announced the change Monday as it looks to lower costs and make testing for the virus more convenient. Later this month, the federal government will launch a website to begin making 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests available via mail. The administration also is scaling up emergency rapid-testing sites in areas experiencing the greatest surges in cases.
The Associated Press was the first to report that under the new policy, Americans will be able to either purchase home testing kits for free under their insurance or submit receipts for the tests for reimbursement up to the monthly per-person limit. PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance with no limit. Only tests purchased on or after January 15th will be required to be reimbursed, the administration said. Some insurers may choose to cover the costs of at-home tests purchased earlier, but they won’t have to.
First covid tests done at home pic.twitter.com/bHyIQmgxdR
— Eleanor Beardsley (@ElBeardsley) January 11, 2022
The administration is trying to incentivize private insurers to cover the tests up-front and without a cumbersome reimbursement process. Insurance plans that work with pharmacies and retailers to cover the up-front costs of the tests will be required to reimburse only up to $12 per test if purchased through an out-of-network retailer. Plans that don’t move proactively to set up a network of pharmacies would have to cover the full retail price that the customer paid — which could be more than $12 per test.
Doing a home Covid test because 2 of my teammates tested positive. pic.twitter.com/XBmsbMOKZg
— Join the book club (@TheRealNubian2) January 11, 2022
Americans on Medicare won’t be able to get tests reimbursed through the federal insurance plan, but Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans are required to cover the cost of at-home tests fully. Those who are not on a covered insurance plan can receive free tests through the forthcoming federal website or from some local community centers and pharmacies.
You can also take a Covid Test at home. Fuck you, Texas GOP. https://t.co/J4jZVO3wRE
— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) January 7, 2022