Medicare Will Start Paying for At-Home COVID Tests in the Spring

Negative Covid-19 antigen test kit, one step coronavirus antigen rapid test, saliva swab, 1 test box with imagine of lungs, close up.
Michele Ursi / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Medicare enrollees will finally get some economic relief via the provision of free at-home COVID-19 tests, news that comes following a decision by the Biden administration to have the health insurance agency start reimbursing for tests purchased at participating pharmacies and retailers.

A representative from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told CNN last week that the option will be available in the early spring. The move comes after both lawmakers and advocacy groups have urged Medicare to fund the at-home tests for older and disabled Americans, especially since the tests are seen as an important tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Although the Biden administration started requiring that private health insurers cover the cost of most at-home tests last month, it didn’t include the 36 million traditional Medicare enrollees in the original initiative. The main reason is that traditional Medicare doesn’t cover over-the-counter medical products such as at-home COVID tests, according to The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, the 28 million Medicare Advantage enrollees who get Medicare through private insurers have had to check with their specific carriers to see if the tests were covered, CNN noted.

That will all change with the new initiative, but it will take some time to put everything in place.

“In the weeks ahead, we’ll be working diligently on behalf of people with Medicare to set up a process for them to receive free over-the-counter tests through eligible pharmacies and other participating entities,” Dr. Meena Seshamani, director of the Center for Medicare, told CNN.

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The CMS will release a list of participating pharmacies and retailers when coverage begins. When that happens, Medicare enrollees won’t have to visit their doctors or get prescriptions to get the free tests, CNN reported. Individual Medicare enrollees will get up to eight tests per month.

In the meantime, Medicare officials recommend that enrollees either order free tests through, visit free community testing sites, or access lab testing through their individual health care providers.

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