- The Biden administration is buying 500 million at-home COVID test kits to give Americans for free.
- Americans will be able to order test kits to be delivered to their homes starting January 19.
- The administration will also require insurers to reimburse rapid test kits starting on January 15.
The Biden administration is purchasing 500 million at home, rapid COVID-19 tests to distribute to Americans at no cost in response to a rise in cases spurred in part by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
The website where Americans will be able to order tests, covidtests.gov, is set to go live on Wednesday, January 19.
The emergence of Omicron colliding with the winter holidays created a sharp demand for COVID-19 testing that ran up against a short supply of at-home, over-the-counter tests, and inadequate infrastructure for in-person PCR testing.
Americans around the country and in large cities like New York have found pharmacies sold out of over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits and contended with hours-long lines to get a test.
In a December 21 speech at the White House, President Joe Biden said that his administration will also establish “emergency testing sites” in places that need additional capacity.
“I don’t think anybody anticipated this was going to be as rapidly spreading as it did,” Biden said about the Omicron variant.
Here’s what we know about how and when Americans can get a free test kit:
When can I get a free test?
The Biden administration will start making test kits available at no cast at covidtests.gov starting on January 19, 2022. Test kits are expected to ship in seven to 12 days, the White House said.
Eight different brands of at-home rapid COVID tests are currently authorized for use by the Food & Drug Administration. The White House has officially reached a deal with the US Postal Service to distribute the 500 million tests, and also plans to order an additional 500 million tests on top of its initial order.
Will the government automatically send free rapid test kits to all American households?
No. Americans that want free tests will need to order them. The free test kits will be limited to only four per address, the White House said, with high-risk communities and those hardest-hit by the Omicron variant prioritized for access to tests.
Is my state or city giving out free COVID test kits?
Depending on where you live, yes!
Some major cities, like New York City, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, and states including Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Washington, Iowa, Ohio, Maryland, and Colorado are offering free COVID-19 test kits to some or all residents, according to NPR.
Can I get the cost of a COVID-19 rapid test reimbursed by my insurance in the meantime?
Starting on Saturday, yes.
The Biden administration announced in early December of 2021 that they would also issue a mandate requiring private insurers to fully reimburse the costs of rapid, at-home COVID-19 test kits purchased over-the-counter. The reimbursement requirement will officially go into effect on January 15.
The reimbursement mandate, however, won’t be retroactive for past purchases, meaning that the millions of Americans who shelled out money to buy rapid test kits in preparation for the holidays will have to shoulder those costs out of pocket.
One state, Vermont, has a state-level mandate requiring all insurers who operate in the state to reimburse all over-the-counter.
But while most major private insurers cover the costs of COVID-19 tests conducted in a medical setting or at a test site, many insurers will only reimburse over-the-counter COVID test kits that were ordered by a doctor.