With the Omicron variant having caused COVID-19 cases to skyrocket across the country (and come back down again), easy access to rapid COVID tests has also been up-and-down. Even when you manage to find them on the shelves, they add up fast, costing the average family $30 for a box of just two tests.
Good news: if you have health insurance, that cost just got covered. Starting on January 15, the White House announced that private insurers will now be required to reimburse members for 8 over-the-counter, at-home COVID tests per person, per month.
Read on to learn how to claim your insurance reimbursement, Frequently Asked Questions about the new White House rule, and tips for testing to keep your loved ones safe during Omicron.
Q: How many COVID tests can I get reimbursed for?
Your insurer is now required to cover 8 over-the-counter, at-home COVID tests per person, per month, as announced by the Biden Administration. That means a family of four, for example, will be eligible for 32 covered at-home tests per month.
According to the White House press release, the 8-test limit only applies to at-home tests you purchase on your own, like from a pharmacy or grocery store. COVID tests from your healthcare provider, walk-in clinic, or urgent care don’t count towards the limit since they are prescribed
Q: Which COVID tests are eligible for reimbursement?
The new White House rule applies only to FDA-approved, at-home COVID tests available over-the-counter at stores and pharmacies in the United States.
There are currently 11 different FDA-approved at-home tests that are eligible for reimbursement, including widely available brands like Abbott’s BinaxNOW and Quidel’s QuickVue:
- BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test
- iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test
- BD Veritor At-Home COVID-19 Test
- SCoV-2 Ag Detect Rapid Self-Test
- InteliSwab COVID-19 Rapid Test
- Celltrion DiaTrust COVID-19 Ag Home Test
- QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test
- Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test
- BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card 2 Home Test
- Ellume COVID-19 Home Test
- CareStart COVID-19 Antigen Home Test
If you aren’t sure whether a certain at-home test will be covered, check the FDA website or ask your insurance provider.
Q: How do I get reimbursed for COVID tests I buy?
Keep your receipts! The exact reimbursement process will vary by insurer, but you’ll need a dated receipt to get reimbursed, according to the White House FAQ Release. Keep the receipts for any at-home COVID tests you’ve bought since January 15 and store them somewhere safe until your insurer announces its process. Snap a picture on your phone so you have a digital copy just in case.
Soon, according to HHS, your insurer may announce a network of preferred pharmacies and other retailers where you can purchase tests without paying out of pocket, so be on the lookout for communication from them. Even after your insurance announces a preferred network, you’ll still be eligible for up to $12 reimbursement on tests you purchase elsewhere according to the new White House Press Release. Either way, keep those receipts.
Q: Can I get reimbursed for tests I’ve already purchased?
Unfortunately, only tests purchased on January 15 or later qualify for insurance reimbursement under the new White House rule. But it doesn’t hurt to ask your insurance provider, who might have a more generous policy.
Q: What if I don’t have insurance?
Only privately insured households are eligible for the eight covered at-home tests per month, but there are other ways to access free COVID tests if you’re uninsured. Anyone, regardless of insurance status, can now order four free at-home tests per residential mailing address via the new USPS mailing program. These tests will start shipping for free in late January.
Need a test ASAP? Find a COVID test near you with Solv, or look for free local testing clinics in your area. Free, federally sponsored COVID-19 tests are now available at more than 20,000 free testing sites nationwide. Some state and local governments are also sending free at-home tests to people who request them, though many programs are struggling to keep up with Omicron-related demand. Try subscribing to your local government’s email list to stay aware of any new programs.
If you’re experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, use Solv to find a COVID test near you and look for the self-pay option.
Q: Will tests ordered by my doctor still be covered by insurance?
Yes! COVID tests ordered or given by your health provider will still be covered by insurance. The new reimbursement rule only applies to at-home tests you administer yourself, according to the White House Press Release.
Q: Where can I find COVID tests near me?
While stores struggle to keep at-home COVID tests in stock, it can be difficult to find one on the shelves near you. Check back often with your favorite local and online retailers, as new shipments can come in at any time. If you can’t find an at-home test and need answers now, use Solv to find and book a rapid test at a provider near you.
Q: How accurate are the at-home COVID tests?
Data from the FDA suggests that at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen tests may be less effective at detecting the Omicron variant. However, think of these tests as the first line of defense. They are helpful when a quick check is required.
“A positive test indicates an active infection,” explains Dr. Rob Rohatsch, M.D. Solv’s Medical Director. “But a negative test doesn’t rule out infection. It just means that the test didn’t detect it.”
According to the FDA, the PCR test is the most accurate at detecting COVID-19 infections. PCR stands for 'polymerase chain reaction.' This test requires specialized laboratory equipment. It detects the virus's unique genetic code but takes a little longer to return results.
Q: When should I take a COVID test?
Dr. Rohatsch says, "Here's a good rule of thumb. If you develop symptoms of a COVID-19 infection like a sore throat or fever but an at-home test returns a negative result, get a PCR test to make sure." You may also consider a teleconsultation with a healthcare professional to ensure you and your loved ones receive the right treatment.
Omicron-related infections spread much faster than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and other variants like Delta. Even though symptoms appear to be more mild, this variant appears much more contagious. If someone in your household was exposed to COVID-19, wait five days after the exposure and then self-test to see if they’ve been infected, recommends the CDC.
If you don’t have symptoms of infection but suspect a possible exposure to COVID, the CDC suggests that you consider an at-home rapid antigen test as a first step.
Q: What if I test positive?
The CDC recommends, if you test positive, you should stay home or isolate for at least five days, wear a mask if you have contact with others, and avoid indoor gatherings. 85-90% of transmission occurs in the 1-2 days before symptoms arise and 2-3 days after. To learn more tips for taking care of yourself at-home when you're COVID-positive, read this article.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, even if your self-test was negative, stay home and isolate if possible, and continue wearing a mask outside if you have any contact with others, recommends the CDC. If you’re not experiencing symptoms or are fever-free for 24 hours, masks are still recommended for the following five days, ideally an N95 mask as suggested by the CDC.
With Omicron cases surging, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. We’ll keep this space updated with more information about the new White House insurance mandate and everything else Omicron.
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- FDA In Vitro Diagnostics EUAs - Antigen Diagnostic Tests for SARS-CoV-2. January 18, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-emergency-use-authorizations-medical-devices/in-vitro-diagnostics-euas-antigen-diagnostic-tests-sars-cov-2
- Fact Sheet: The Biden Administration to Begin Distributing At-Home, Rapid COVID-19 Tests to Americans for Free. January 14, 2022. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/01/14/fact-sheet-the-biden-administration-to-begin-distributing-at-home-rapid-covid-19-tests-to-americans-for-free/
- CDC Self-Testing and Isolation Guidelines for COVID-19. December 29, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/self-testing.html
- Biden-Harris Administration Requires Insurance Companies and Group Health Plans to Cover the Cost of At-Home COVID-19 Tests, Increasing Access to Free Tests. January 10, 2022. 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