Who knew COVID-19 tests would have to become a line item in your budget? Well, there’s good news if you’ve been shelling out your hard-earned money for tests.
Your health insurance will now pay for eight free at-home COVID-19 tests per month. The Biden administration announced that, beginning Saturday, January 15, you can buy at-home tests online or at retailers and your insurance company will cover them either up front or through reimbursement.
Let’s dig into what the White House said and how you can get these tests.
What Did the White House Announce?
In January 2022, the White House announced that, as of January 15, each individual can get eight free at-home FDA-approved COVID-19 tests a month covered by their private health insurance.1 (If your doctor orders a test, don’t worry, it won’t count toward your eight tests.)
The news ties in with a December 2021 announcement that the U.S. government will be purchasing 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests to be made freely available to Americans upon request.2
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The Biden administration will work with certain pharmacies, retailers and other places to help people get access to the tests. A website and hotline for ordering the tests will soon be up and running.
Which Insurance Programs Cover Free At-Home COVID Tests?
If you have private health insurance, these tests are now covered! The at-home tests were once only reimbursable with a Health Savings Account (HSA) but that’s now been expanded to include all private health insurance plans.3
If you’re part of a state Medicaid program or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the new requirement doesn’t apply since these programs were already required to cover FDA-authorized at-home tests under the American Rescue Plan.
If you’re on Medicare, the new initiative also doesn’t apply because you already have access to COVID-19 tests like PCR or antigen with no cost-sharing requirements—as long as your doctor orders it.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, double-check with your insurers to see if they cover at-home kits.
How to Use Insurance to Pay for At-Home COVID Tests
So, here’s what you can do to get your hands on some of those free at-home COVID-19 tests.
First, check with your insurance company to see if they have a list of “preferred” pharmacies. These in-network locations are one of the best ways to get the tests. You won’t need a prescription and won’t have to worry about paying your doctor a visit. (If your insurer doesn’t have a network of retailers, don’t worry. There are still ways you can get the tests.)
Ask your insurer if they offer direct coverage for the tests. This means you’ll be able to just walk into any preferred location and get them for free up front.
If you go to an in-network location—An at-home COVID-19 test usually costs around $12, but it will now be covered up front by your insurer.4
If you go to an out-of-network place—Your insurer will still pitch in, but only up to a set amount. They’re required to pay $12 per test—or $24 for a pack of two.5
Order them online—According to the White House, people will soon be able to order at-home tests online, depending on availability. But keep in mind that some of these tests are sold out. So don’t expect everything to be up and running perfectly right off the bat.
If for some reason you have to pay up front for the tests, keep your receipt so you can file a claim with your insurance company.
Which Tests Will Be Covered?
Remember, the free tests have to be FDA-approved. So you can’t be reimbursed for those at-home tests you bought from that neighbor down the street who swore they were legit (just kidding, we know you wouldn’t do that).
Check out the FDA’s list of approved COVID-19 tests to see which ones are covered.
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Get the Best Health Insurance Coverage
Does all this talk about health insurance paying for things you need have you thinking about your own coverage? You may want to connect with one of our health insurance agents. They’re part of our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program and can help you find an affordable plan that gives you the coverage you need.
And who knows? You might even be able to save some money for the same—or better—coverage . . .
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How much is a COVID-19 test without insurance?
Most commercially available at-home COVID-19 tests will set you back around $12 per test.6 You can sometimes get a discount by purchasing a two-pack.
Where can you get a COVID-19 test?
Tests are available at pharmacies, other retailers and online. (If you find yourself meeting a guy in a dark alleyway, that’s probably not the best place to buy them . . .)
Do I have to pay up front and be reimbursed later?
It depends. If you get a test at one of your insurer’s “preferred” pharmacies, you probably won’t pay anything out of pocket. However, in some cases, depending on the location, you might end up paying up front and having to file a claim later.
Do I need to call my health insurance company to see if they cover tests?
No. But you should check with your insurer to see which retailers they consider “in-network.” This will make it easier to get the tests.
If I don’t have health insurance, can I still get free tests?
Yes, depending on availability. The Biden administration is buying 1 billion over-the-counter COVID-19 tests that will soon be available to order online. Watch for more information in the coming weeks (like this website) about where you can order them. Also, some community health centers also give away free tests. So if you don’t have health insurance, you still have some options.
Can I be reimbursed for previous tests I’ve purchased before January 15?
Maybe. Your insurance company won’t be required to reimburse you for any tests purchased before January 15, but they might still do it. Never hurts to ask!