While it’s nice that the government will be sending us four free at-home rapid COVID test kits a month, that’s not going to be enough for many households. However, if you’ve got private insurance through an employer or a group, you do have an alternative: you can get a reimbursement for — or pick up free at approved retailers — up to eight FDA-authorized at-home COVID tests per person per month.
Announced back in January, the new rules state that private health insurers are required to cover these tests without needing approval from a doctor or other medical provider. (If you need more kits, you can also get them covered if it is ordered by a medical provider.) This requirement went into effect on January 15th.
How do you take advantage of this? That depends on your specific health insurer.
Currently, the best way to find out how to get reimbursed for tests you have purchased is to log on to your health insurance site. I checked about six insurance sites, and currently, most are offering claim forms that you can fill out and submit with proof of purchase. Eventually, according to the announcement, we should be able to pick up kits at approved pharmacies and stores; however, it’s early days yet.
Some other things to be aware of:
- You will have to provide proof of purchase along with your claim form, so if you make the purchase at a local store, don’t lose that receipt.
- Your insurance company may have a list of approved kits and / or approved retailers that it will accept claims for. As a result, it’s a good idea to check your insurer’s site before buying.
- You can buy an FDA-approved kit outside of your insurer’s approved retailer network; your insurance company is required to reimburse those purchases at a rate of $12 per test.
- If you ordered a COVID test kit online before January 15th but didn’t receive it until after, you may still be covered. Either check with your insurer, or submit the form with proof of purchase and delivery, and hope for the best.
- The requirement covers eight tests per person — not eight kits. So if your kit contains two or more tests (and many do), then keep that in mind when submitting your claim.
Unfortunately, this leaves Medicare and Medicaid health insurance recipients — and those who don’t have insurance — pretty much out in the cold. The government is now providing four free test kits per month per household if you sign up for them, but that isn’t going to go very far if you have more than a couple of people in your household and a need to test frequently. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services, “State Medicaid and CHIP programs are required to cover FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 tests,” but the rules can vary by state, and you’ll have to contact your local office for more info.
Finally, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HRSA- and Medicare-supported health clinics are being supplied with at-home test kits to distribute; again, you will need to check with your local clinic.
You can find more information for reimbursements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services site.
Update January 20th, 11:30AM ET: Information added to clarify the availability of test kits for participants in Medicaid and CHIP programs.