What Members Should Know About Free At-Home COVID Testing

(From the Financial Literacy Blog) – With a surge in Omicron-related COVID cases, more and more people are seeking at-home COVID rapid tests. At-home tests have become a popular option, however, the costs of at-home tests can add up—if you can even find them. This has made price and availability the two largest barriers to being able to safely test from the comfort of your own home. Within the past week though, the federal government has begun to address those issues.

Insurance Now Covers At-Home COVID Tests

Becoming law on January 15, Americans with health insurance can now go online or to a brick-and-mortar retailer to purchase at-home COVID testing kits at no cost as long as the tests are authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If your health plan provides for direct coverage, tests will be free directly at the point of sale. Otherwise, if you need to pay for the test upfront, be sure to keep your receipt to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.

If your health insurance plan hasn’t set up a network of preferred stores or pharmacies where you can get a test with no out-of-pocket expense, you will be reimbursed for the full cost of the test. If you pay $25 for a testing kit, your insurer will reimburse you $25. If your health insurance plan has set up a networked of preferred stores or pharmacies, you still have the option of purchasing tests from retailers outside of that network. However, your insurer is only required to reimburse you up to $12 per test. For example, if you pay $25 for a testing kit outside of the insurer’s preferred network, you’ll be reimbursed $12—leaving you with a total expense of $13.

Health insurance plans are required to provide reimbursement for up to eight tests per month for each individual on the plan. To find out how to submit a claim to your health plan for reimbursement, contact your insurer.

U.S. Government Launches Website For Free COVID Tests

As of January 18, Americans can receive free at-home COVID tests directly from the federal government. By visiting COVIDTests.gov, you can request four free at-home tests per household, with kits shipping within 7-12 days. These tests are available to anyone in the U.S., regardless of whether or not they have health insurance. The U.S. Postal Service will deliver the kits to Maine through First-Class Package Service with no charge for shipping.

Avoid COVID Test Scams

Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of the increased demand for at-home tests. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning that fake and unauthorized tests are popping up online. These fake tests are a waste of money and inaccurate.

  • In order to protect your finances, you should consider paying by credit card when purchasing tests online. If you’re charged for an order you never receive or get a product that’s not as advertised, contact your credit card company and dispute the charge.
  • Research the seller before you buy, especially if it’s from a site or seller you’re unfamiliar with. Search for reviews and look up the seller’s name and other keywords, such as “scam” or “complaint.”
  • Make sure the test you’re buying is authorized by the FDA. Search this list of tests to find out if the test is authorized for home use.

While you’re working to protect your health, it’s important that you’re protecting your finances as well! Between free tests from the government, insurance reimbursement, and due diligence when it comes to educated purchases, you can lessen the financial burden of testing.

WMTW Coverage

The League’s Jen Burke spoke to WMTW News 8 on this topic on Thursday. The video clip can be shared on social media to help educate members about this timely issue.