Americans who still want to get free COVID tests mailed to them by the federal government are once again able to request them, after the White House restarted the program on December 15.
When the demand for home COVID tests shot up during the Omicron surge, the federal government responded to criticism that it had not adequately prepared for the moment by making hundreds of millions of tests available to U.S. residents for free. Nearly half of the 500 million home tests the Biden administration initially made available were not claimed, so the president announced during his State of the Union address in March that people could request a second batch of tests.
On May 16, the administration announced that Americans could order a third round of tests through covidtests.gov — and they’ll receive eight tests, twice as many as in previous orders. “As the highly transmissible subvariants of Omicron drive a rise in cases in parts of the country, free and accessible tests will help slow the spread of the virus,” the Biden administration said in a statement. Here’s what you need to know about the program.
Where can you order free COVID tests from the government?
You can order free COVID tests online at covidtests.gov. Just enter your first name, last name, and shipping address, then click “Check Out Now.” You do not need to enter any payment information, proof of identity, or health-insurance information. There’s an option to enter your email address if you want shipping updates. Tests typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering, and will be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
Tests can also be ordered via phone at 1-800-232-0233. The line is open 8 a.m. to midnight ET, seven days a week. It offers help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages.
People with disabilities can call the Disability Information and Access Line at 1-888-677-1199 for help placing their orders.
Who is eligible to order free tests?
The tests are available for every residential address in the United States. You do not need to submit proof of citizenship or disclose your immigration status. Ordering free COVID tests does not make you a public charge and will not affect green-card applications, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
How many tests can you order?
Each U.S. household can place an order for a total of 4 individual tests. You do not get to choose which brand of rapid antigen test you receive.
What if I still haven’t received my two initial orders?
The FAQ on the covidtests.gov website says, “Residential addresses known to have multiple unrelated families can order multiple tests.” However, the site acknowledges that there have been issues with these addresses not being “recognized as multi-family by USPS.”
If you have issues with your order or any other questions about shipping or eligibility, you can contact the USPS Help Desk at 1-800-275-8777.
Where else can you get free home COVID tests?
In addition to the four free home COVID tests provided by the federal government, U.S. residents can also be reimbursed for over-the-counter COVID tests through their health insurance.
As of January 15, private health insurers are required to cover the cost of home COVID tests. Insurers must cover eight tests per covered individual per month — so, for example, a family of four could be reimbursed for 32 tests every month. No prescription or doctor’s visit is required to purchase the test, and there are no co-pays or deductibles.
The Biden administration has encouraged insurance companies to establish a network of preferred retailers. For example, if your insurer partnered with CVS, you might be able to walk into a CVS pharmacy, show your insurance card, and walk out with eight free tests. Insurers that fail to do this must reimburse the full cost of any home test (up to eight tests per month). The website for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, cms.gov, has more on the policy, and you can check with your health-insurance company for more information about how it is meeting the requirement to reimburse customers for home tests.