Giving Americans Better Access to At-Home COVID-19 Testing

David Brust, Class of 2022, Belmont Law

On January 10, 2022, the Biden Administration announced starting January 15, 2022, private insurance companies are required to cover eight at-home COVID-19 tests per month per individual. While an individual may have to pay up front for the tests, their insurer will be required to reimburse them if a claim is submitted. This rule was made pursuant to §6001 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and covers only the eight over the counter tests that are currently FDA approved. This new rule will help to ensure that Americans can afford to obtain an at-home test, so long as they are able to find one.

In the first nine days of insurers covering at-home tests, it has come to light that one major insurer of many at risks individuals is not included in the new rule. This insurer is Medicare.  Medicare is not permitted by law to pay for self-administered diagnostic tests such as rapid at-home COVID-19 tests. This is concerning as there are 62 million Medicare beneficiaries and older people who are considered more at risk if they catch COVID-19. However, if a Medicare beneficiary wants a free at-home test, they can find one a couple of ways. First, people covered by Medicare Advantage, which is more akin to traditional insurance, may have their over-the-counter test covered by their insurance. Additionally, Medicare covers one rapid antigen test or PCR test done by a lab per year. Once that test is exhausted or if the beneficiary does not want to see a doctor, the beneficiary can visit COVIDtests.gov and order a free at-home test. COVIDtests.gov was recently launched after the Biden Administration purchased 500 million at-home tests to deliver to Americans at their homes free of charge. Each individual is limited to four free tests per month. The administration hopes to purchase another 500 million tests. Lastly, Medicare beneficiaries can visit a local community health center or a Medicare-certified health clinic to obtain one of the 50 million tests the federal government has provided these facilities.

Overall, the new rule will give Americans greater access to at-home COVID-19 tests so long as the tests can be kept in stock. Additionally, every American and, most importantly, those who are uninsured or have traditional Medicare can still obtain free tests at COVIDtests.gov.

Works Cited:

https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/EBSA/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/faqs/aca-part-51.pdf

https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2022/01/10/biden-harris-administration-requires-insurance-companies-group-health-plans-to-cover-cost-at-home-covid-19-tests-increasing-access-free-tests.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/01/24/1074964627/seniors-are-at-high-risk-of-covid-but-medicare-doesnt-pay-for-rapid-tests

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