A little over one month after the White House press secretary mocked the idea of providing free at-home COVID-19 tests for all Americans, the White House has arranged for insurers to cover as many as eight at-home rapid tests per person per month with the policy going into effect Saturday.
The policy unveiled Monday allows Americans with private insurance to get rapid tests without paying a deductible, co-insurance, or co-pay. Though some insurers will require people to pay up front and get paid back for the tests at a later date, the White House is encouraging large insurance providers to partner with pharmacy chains so people can get tests without having to apply for reimbursements. While President Joe Biden announced the program last month, only this week did the administration explain the specifics; reimbursements for tests purchased before Saturday will not be covered.
With the program launching this week, the federal government intends to put up a website to distribute an additional 500 million at-home tests to help Americans know if they’ve been exposed to the more transmissible and tricky-to-test Omicron variant. In many areas of the country where the new strain has already hit hard, testing has been difficult to come by with limited stock of at-home tests in stores and hours-long waits becoming the norm at testing centers. But some experts worry that half a billion tests may not be enough “given the surge in cases,” as Larry Levitt, executive vice-president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Wall Street Journal. The policy does not cover people on Medicare, though people on Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans can access free tests. For the roughly 28 million Americans who do not have health insurance, the administration is setting up a website where they can sign up for free tests to be mailed to their homes.