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Having plenty of at-home COVID-19 tests on hand can get expensive. Some of the tests cleared by the FDA for emergency use authorization, such as BinaxNOW, On/Go and QuickVue retail for $18 to $24 and contain two tests. Even so, that’s $9 to $12 per test, which can quickly add up — especially if you have multiple family members who need to test more than once.
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To expand Americans’ access to free testing, the federal government began requiring insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests effective Jan.15. Here’s what you need to know about getting your fair share of these at-home tests with no out-of-pocket cost.
How Can You Get Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests?
Since Jan.15, people who are either covered under private health insurance or a group health plan can purchase over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests that are authorized or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and have those tests covered by their insurance or health plan.
The federal government is incentivizing insurers and group health plans to set up programs to allow people to get these tests directly through preferred pharmacies, retailers or other places without having to pay any money upfront and avoid having to submit a claim for reimbursement.
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Here’s how the incentive works. When an insurer or group health plan sets up a program to allow people to get tests for free through a preferred network of pharmacies or retailers, they can limit the amount of reimbursement to $12 for each test people purchase outside of the network.
However, if an insurer or group health plan does not set up a program to allow covered individuals to get tests with no upfront costs and opts to simply reimburse, they must reimburse for the full cost of each test, even if it costs more than $12.
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How Many Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests Can You Get Per Month?
Insurance companies and health plans are required to cover eight individual at-home tests per covered person each month. So, for example, a family of four could get up to 32 tests per month, and a family of six could get up to 48 tests per month.
Where Can You Get Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests?
You can get free at-home tests at online retailers, or go to a pharmacy or store to purchase an at-home COVID-19 test. Consult your health insurance plan administrator or provider to find out if it provides direct coverage of at-home tests through a network of preferred pharmacies or retailers. If it does, you will be able to get free tests from those pharmacies or retailers without any upfront costs.
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How Long Will Insurance Companies Cover At-Home Tests?
The federal government’s mandate began on Jan. 15 and no end date has been announced.
How Do You Get Reimbursed If You Purchase an At-Home COVID-19 Test?
If you are covered by private health insurance or a group health plan, save your receipt if you purchase an at-home COVID-19 test after Jan. 15. Then, contact your group plan administrator or your health insurance provider to find out how to submit your receipt for reimbursement.
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What If You Don’t Have Health Insurance?
For people who don’t have health insurance, the federal government is offering four free at-home COVID-19 tests to every home in the United States. To order, visit the official website of the U.S. government.
There are also over 20,000 free community testing sites across the U.S. Go here to find a testing location near you.
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