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CORONAVIRUS

Does Medicare offer free covid tests?

The White House announced that the 60 million Medicare beneficiaries will soon be able to collect eight at-home tests per month from participating retailers.

Households will again be able to order free COVID tests from the federal government as the colder months approach. Here is how to order the tests.
JUSTIN SULLIVANAFP

The 60 million Americans currently enrolled in Medicare coverage will soon be able to collect free rapid covid-19 tests from participating pharmacies and healthcare providers.

The new initiative, which also applies to Medicare Advantage recipients, will bring Medicare in line with the Biden administration's new requirements for private health insurers to make free coronavirus test available for beneficiaries.

An announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) outlines: “This new initiative will enable payment from Medicare directly to participating pharmacies and other participating entities to allow Medicare beneficiaries to pick up tests at no cost.”

When will the free covid-19 Medicare tests be available?

As of yet there is no exact date for the programme to go live but the CMS did confirm that “people in either Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage will be able to get over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at no cost starting in early spring.”

Pharmacies and healthcare centres participating in the national effort will be announced in the coming weeks, and it is possible that there is some regional variation in the start date for the free tests. In the meantime Americans can claim four free at-home covid-19 rapid tests from covidtests.gov, as part of a separate scheme from President Biden.

What is known of the new initiative for Medicare beneficiaries is that it will be limited to a maximum of eight at-home tests per person, in-keeping with the new regulations for private healthcare insurers. Over the holiday period the Biden was criticised for a shortage of the vital tests, which became dangerously scarce as the Omicron variant tore through the United States and testing demand sky-rocketed.

Biden administration introduces new test requirement for private insurers

Last month the Biden administration announced that private insurers would have to cover the cost of at least eight at-home covid-19 tests for those enrolled in their coverage. Around 150 million people, 45% of the population, receive some form of private medical insurance, often through their employers.

The new rule ensures that coverage providers must strike a deal with pharmacies and other retailers to make tests available for collection. Individuals will also be able to purchase the tests themselves and claim the money back off their insurer, however this can come with certain specifications on the type and price of the tests.

In the United States coronavirus tests have been incredibly expensive when compared to other wealthy nations, with a two-pack of at-home tests costing anywhere between $14 and $34 from private retailers according to The New York Times.

The United Kingdom has for months allowed residents to order at-home tests for free from a government website, while Germany has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create a vast network of 15,000 rapid testing sites across the country.