All Americans will soon get 8 free COVID-19 tests a month covered by insurance — here’s how to get them

Coronavirus test kit at home
  • Health insurance companies will be required to cover eight at-home COVID-19 tests a month per customer.
  • Consumers can apply for reimbursement starting Saturday or visit in-network retailers for a free test.
  • The Biden administration also plans to distribute 500 million free coronavirus tests in January.

People with private health insurance will be able to get at-home COVID-19 tests free of charge starting Saturday, the Biden administration announced Monday.

The new coverage requirement means that insurance companies must cover eight over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests per individual per month. Any of the home test kits authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration are eligible for reimbursement.

It’s unclear whether the policy only covers rapid antigen tests (like Abbott’s BinaxNOW) or if pricier, mail-in PCR tests will be free of charge as well. Most insurance companies already cover the cost of a PCR test in a healthcare setting if an individual has symptoms or has been exposed to COVID-19.

The Biden administration also promised 500 million free rapid coronavirus tests in January, which press secretary Jen Psaki said will be “out the door in the coming weeks,” speaking to reporters at Monday’s White House news briefing.

Get tests for free at ‘preferred’ locations

Most consumers will be able to get the tests, which cost between $15 and $35 for a two-pack, covered up front at their insurer’s “preferred” pharmacies. Insurers are required to pay for $12 per individual test (or $24 per two-pack) at out-of-network locations, leaving the rest of the cost to the consumer.

You can check your insurer’s website to see if it has a network of specific retailers set up; otherwise, the company is responsible for the cost of all eight tests with no limit on price.

The cost of test kits is enough to keep many people from getting tested at home, and long lines and faraway locations may make in-person testing inaccessible as well.

For the roughly 150 million Americans with private health insurance, at least one barrier to testing will soon be broken down — although many of the tests that are covered under the new policy are currently sold out.

As of now, people on Medicare will not be able to get their at-home COVID-19 tests reimbursed through the program, according to the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services. Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans are already required to fully cover the cost of at-home tests.

More free tests will be home-delivered this month

The Department of Defense has finalized at least two contracts related to the tests: one with a distribution company based in Virginia, and recently another with Revival Health, a California company tasked with “procuring 13.3 million over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits.” It’s not yet clear which tests will make up the rest of the order.

Americans will need to order a free test online in order to get one from the incoming batch. The administration is still working on a plan to deliver millions of tests across the country, as well as extra efforts in underserved communities.

Here are the 11 tests that may be covered, for home delivery or pharmacy reimbursement, based on what’s already authorized by the FDA: