CDC makes two major changes regarding COVID-19 boosters and costs

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Free COVID-19 tests go away on May 12 so stock up now

There's news on two major fronts in the world of COVID-19. The first is that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has simplified its vaccine recommendations, allowing adults 65 and over and immunocompromised adults to get second dose of the latest (bivalent) mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. 

While seniors and the immunocompromised get the headline on this, the CDC recommends that everyone ages six years and older receive an updated (bivalent) mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether they previously completed their (monovalent) primary series.

The agency specified that for young children, multiple doses continue to be recommended and will vary by age, vaccine, and which vaccines were previously received.  

What's free, what's not starting May 12

The second major change is that starting May 12, the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be considered a public health emergency in the U.S. And, when that happens, there’ll be a shake-up when it comes to who pays what for tests, treatment, and vaccines.

At that point, COVID-19 vaccines and drugs will still be free thanks to the federal government’s commitment to cover those costs. However, Americans will be on their own unless they have health insurance that will cover any other COVID-related situations.

For example, in-office tests will likely go up in price. The Associated Press (AP) says that some people could be looking at all or part of a $70-100 fee, again depending on their insurer. 

At-home tests will no longer be free for most people, either. In an email seen by ConsumerAffairs, Walgreens told its customers that “If your plan does provide coverage, there may be cost-sharing and limits to the number of tests covered per person per month.

Test kits are non-refundable. After you submit your order, a Walgreens pharmacist will confirm your eligibility and your potential copay amounts with your insurance plan.”

The AP reported that some private insurers may continue to cover the cost of some or all home tests, but the nationwide rule we've gotten used to will end and if insurance won't cover an at-home test, consumers are looking at somewhere in the ballpark of $20-25 for a two-pack of tests. 

Fortunately, you can still get a free at-home COVID-19 test kit until May 12 via this USPS website. You should also check to see if the at-home tests you have at home haven't expired, as well, and replace those for free while you can.

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