Private insurance companies will be required to reimburse customers for up to eight at-home Covid-19 tests per month starting Saturday, according to a policy announced Monday, as the Biden Administration grapples with high demand for tests amid a soaring number of coronavirus cases from the omicron variant.
Employees of the Miami-Dade Public Library System distribute Covid-19 home rapid test kits in Miami, ... [+] Florida, on January 8, 2022. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)AFP via Getty Images
Private insurers can pay for at-home tests upfront at preferred pharmacies and retailers, or reimburse people who buy the test kits elsewhere, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release.
Only tests purchased on or after January 15 are required to be reimbursed, though insurance companies can choose to reimburse tests purchased earlier.
Americans on Medicare won’t be eligible for the federal reimbursement plan, though Medicare already covers Covid-19 tests conducted in labs, and Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans are already required to fully reimburse the costs of FDA-approved tests.
PCR tests and rapid tests administered by a healthcare provider will continue to be covered by insurance with no limit.
Later this month, the Biden Administration plans to launch a website where Americans can sign up to receive free at-home Covid-19 tests through the mail. The exact date for launching the website has not been revealed, but the administration said it will make 500 million tests available.
“This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release. “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.”
The White House said last month it will require insurance companies to reimburse the costs of the at-home tests, but it did not reveal the details of the plan. Over the past few weeks, demand for at-home tests has skyrocketed as new Covid-19 cases reach their highest levels since the pandemic began, leading stores like Amazon and Walmart to limit the number of tests customers can purchase. Walmart and other retailers like Kroger also raised prices of the tests as they struggle to keep them in stock.
Social media accounts known for aiding in the search for in-demand products like the Playstation 5 pivoted to searching for at-home Covid-19 tests last week, according to reports from Bloomberg and CBS News.
Home COVID tests to be covered by insurers starting Saturday (Associated Press)