Medicare recipients can now get up to eight free COVID-19 tests per month from participating pharmacies and healthcare providers, the Biden administration announced on Monday.
The tests will be available to more than 59 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Part B, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said on its website. Recipients will be given access to Food and Drug Administration approved, authorized, or cleared over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at no cost for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests free of charge,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “With today’s step, we are further expanding health insurance coverage of free over-the-counter tests to Medicare beneficiaries, including our nation’s elderly and people with disabilities.”
This marks the first time that Medicare has covered an over-the-counter self-administered test at no cost to beneficiaries, according to the CMS. The initiative enables payment from Medicare directly to participating eligible pharmacies and other healthcare providers. It is in addition to the two sets of four free at-home COVID-19 tests Americans can order from covidtests.gov.
National retail and pharmacy chains participating in this initiative include Albertsons, Costco, CVS, Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford, H-E-B, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Kroger, Rite Aid, Shop & Stop, Walgreens and Walmart.
Providers and suppliers eligible to participate also include certain types of pharmacies and other healthcare providers who are enrolled in Medicare and able to furnish ambulatory healthcare services such as preventive vaccines, COVID-19 testing and regular medical visits.
To ensure that Medicare recipients have access to these tests, the CMS will not require participating eligible pharmacies and healthcare providers to go through any new Medicare enrollment processes. If a healthcare provider currently provides ambulatory healthcare services such as vaccines, lab tests or other clinical visits to people with Medicare, then they are eligible to participate in the new initiative.
A list of eligible pharmacies and other healthcare providers that have committed publicly to participate in this initiative can be found on the medicare.gov site. Because additional eligible pharmacies and healthcare providers can also participate, Medicare recipients should check with their local pharmacy or healthcare provider to find out whether they are participating.
You can learn more by visiting this fact sheet.
Demand for tests has declined since its peak during the Omicron surge amid an overall drop in the number of cases, Yahoo News reported. But there is still a risk of a new surge as the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant of Omicron circulates, which means testing is still an important part of the health response.