Government Requires Insurers To Cover COVID Test Kits

Starting Jan. 15, people with insurance will be entitled to free at-home tests

Social distancing at the pharmacy
Photo:

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You’ll be able to pick up at-home COVID-19 tests for free starting Saturday as long as you have private health insurance, the federal government announced. 

Insurance companies and group health plans will be required to pay for eight over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per person per month starting Jan. 15, according to new rules announced Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services. The tests will either be paid for upfront by their health plan or the customer will be able to get reimbursed for them. There won’t be any limit on the number of free tests if they’re ordered by a physician. Previously, insurance companies were required to cover only tests given at a testing site or a doctor’s office—not the over-the-counter, take-home kind.

“By requiring private health plans to cover people’s at-home tests, we are further expanding Americans’ ability to get tests for free when they need them,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. 

The new policy offers some financial relief for people trying to stay safe amid an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant. Paying out-of-pocket for testing would cost $728 annually for a person to test twice a week using the cheapest available over-the-counter kits, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit healthcare research group.

The White House previously announced that people, including those without insurance, would be able to order free COVID-19 test kits from the government starting this month. But specific details about that program have yet to be announced.

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  1. The White House. “FACT SHEET: President Biden Announces New Actions to Protect Americans and Help Communities and Hospitals Battle Omicron.”

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