White House to require health insurers to cover COVID-19 tests

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There are additional options in place for those who don’t have health insurance

The White House is adding another preventative measure to its crusade against the spread of COVID-19. Beginning Saturday, Jan. 15, private health insurers will be required to cover the cost of up to eight in-home coronavirus tests per month, per person. The initiative allows Americans to either buy the test kits and get reimbursed for the purchase or get the kits for free. 

Previously, the White House mandated that any and all PCR and rapid tests ordered by a health care provider also be covered.

“This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” Xavier Becerra, the Health and Human Services Secretary, said in a statement. “By requiring private health plans to cover people’s at-home tests, we are further expanding Americans’ ability to get tests for free when they need them.”

How the plan works

The Biden team’s plan is pretty straightforward. The government will make the at-home tests available to the public via a website that it is constructing. When it’s up and running, that site will kick off its campaign by offering 500 million test kits that will be available by mail. 

If things start to turn ugly with COVID-19 again, the White House said it will also set up emergency test sites in areas experiencing spikes in positive cases.

As for the insurance coverage component, anyone who has a traditional private insurance plan should have the price of the kit fully covered. If anyone has to pay for a kit because the purchase is out-of-network or their insurance company doesn’t have a system in place to cover the cost, Biden’s plan will require insurers to reimburse the buyer up to $12 per test. 

In reviewing the features, ConsumerAffairs found only three wrinkles. One is the effective date. If someone purchases a kit prior to Jan. 15, there’s no guarantee that the price of that will be covered. Another is that the cost of the tests is not reimbursable for people on Medicare. However, both the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid plans are required to fully cover those costs. Lastly, if someone doesn’t have health insurance at all, they can get a free test either by signing up on the new website or by going to a local pharmacy such as CVS or a local community center that offers free screening.

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