Jan. 11, 2022 -- The Biden administration announced new details on Monday for Americans to get free COVID-19 tests and receive reimbursement from their health insurance.
Starting Jan. 15, Americans who are covered by a health insurance plan can receive reimbursement when they buy over the counter COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are authorized or approved by the FDA.
This means that most people with private health coverage can go online or to a store, buy a test, and either get it covered up-front or through reimbursement by submitting a claim to their plan, the White House said.
Insurance companies and group health plans will cover eight free at-home tests per person per month, the White House said. A family of four on the same health plan, for instance, could be covered for 32 tests per month.
“We are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans. This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.
The announcement comes after President Joe Biden pledged last month to get insurance companies to cover test costs, as well as provide 500 million tests to Americans for free.
The free tests will be “out the door in the coming weeks,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said during a news briefing on Monday.
“The contracts are structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week,” she said.
Later this week, the Biden administration will also have details on the website where Americans can order the free tests, as well as a hotline, she said.
The administration said it is “incentivizing” insurers and group health plans to set up programs that allow people to get tests directly through preferred pharmacies or retailers with no out-of-pocket costs. But insurers and plans are still required to reimburse tests that are purchased outside of the network at a rate of up to $12 per individual test, the White House said.
Right now, many over-the-counter tests cost around $12 per test, often sold in a two-pack for $24, though some cost more.
State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs are already required to cover FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 tests without cost-sharing, the White House said.
Medicare pays for COVID-19 diagnostic tests performed by a lab with no cost-sharing when ordered by a health care professional. Americans who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan should check with their plan to see whether it offers coverage for at-home over the counter COVID-19 tests, the White House said.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also published a frequently asked questions page on Monday to explain how American can get their at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests covered.