Taking an at-home COVID-19 test is about to get a lot less expensive for the average person — starting on Saturday, private insurance providers will be obligated to cover their costs.
In a new policy change brought forth by President Joe Biden, private insurance providers will have to cover the price of up to eight at-home tests per policy holder or dependent.
An at-home test, in which a person swabs one's nose and swirls it around in a sample to obtain an immediate positive or negative results, typically costs around $24 for a set of two packs.
As part of a push to increase testing and curb spread by knowing who should avoid going out, the move only applies to at-home testing as medically-recommended PCR and rapid antigen tests should already be covered by insurers.
Right now, most people who buy COVID-19 tests would get reimbursed after submitting receipts. In the same announcement, the Biden administration encouraged insurance companies to work out arrangements with popular pharmacies like CVS ( (CVS) - Get CVS Health Corporation Report) and Walgreens ( (WBA) - Get Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc Report) so that free tests can be picked up by visitors directly.
"This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement to the Associated Press. "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."
But while the change will settle the financial problem of at-home testing for some people, actually obtaining one may be another issue altogether — there are currently nationwide shortages due as omicron infections rise. The changes come into effect on Jan. 15; tests purchased after that period will need to be reimbursed.