President Joe Biden announced new pandemic measures on Thursday in anticipation of the spread of Omicron in the U.S., including a program to reimburse Americans for at-home testing. Under the new policy, private health insurers will reimburse people buying over-the-counter COVID-19 rapid tests. For the tens of millions of Americans without insurance, the government plans to buy 25 million more tests to provide for free to community health centers and clinics in rural areas, doubling a 25-million federal order purchased in September.
While the program is a step toward providing the affordable and easy-to-access testing that is available in many European nations, it’s not as simple as free rapid kits for all and it will not be in effect until January 15, when federal regulators would officially inform insurers that they must pay for reimbursements. The program will not be retroactive.
The boost to at-home testing was one of several new points stressed by Biden as his administration prepares for the second pandemic winter in the United States, where the seven-day average of new cases has stayed above 70,000 since late July. In his address at the National Institutes of Health, Biden said that the measures avoid the shutdowns of the early pandemic and focus on “widespread vaccinations and boosters and testing,” a departure from much of the public-health messaging coming from the administration earlier this year focusing on shots alone. Other initiatives announced Thursday include the opening of hundreds of vaccination sites catered to families, boosters for all Americans over 18, and new testing requirements for international travelers, who must now get a negative test from one day before their departure.
On Thursday, a third case of Omicron was detected, with the variant appearing in California, Colorado, and Minnesota.
More on omicron
- What to Know About the New COVID Booster Shots
- The Dismantling of Hong Kong
- What We Know About All the Omicron Subvariants, Including BA.2.12.1