By Tami Luhby, CNN
Updated: Fri, 21 Jan 2022 23:13:24 GMT
Many Americans can now get home Covid-19 tests at no cost through their private insurance. They can obtain the tests from pharmacies, retailers and online vendors.
The program is part of the Biden administration's effort to increase access to testing around the US. People can also receive four free home tests per residential address through the federal website, covidtests.gov.
Have you tried to get a free home test at your retailer? Have you called your insurer to ask about reimbursement? Tell us about it here.
Here's what you need to know about getting free home tests from retailers:
How does this work?
Most Americans with private insurance can buy home tests online or in stores and have them paid for at the time of purchase or get reimbursed by submitting a claim to their insurer. So make sure you save your receipts.
The tests won't be subject to copays or deductibles.
Insurers may set up a network of preferred stores, pharmacies and online retailers where consumers can receive tests at no cost up front. People could still buy tests outside that network, but insurers would only have to reimburse up to $12 for each one.
Consumers should contact their insurers to find out if they provide direct coverage or if claims must be submitted.
Seven major insurers, including Cigna, Anthem and CVS Group/Aetna, are currently requiring policyholders to file for reimbursement, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.
But UnitedHealthcare, Humana, Health Care Service Corp. (which runs several large Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans) and three other big carriers allow enrollees to purchase rapid tests at an in-network or preferred pharmacy and not pay up front, Kaiser found. Most of these insurers also enable their policyholders to seek reimbursement if they buy tests outside the preferred network.
Do I need a doctor's order or prescription?
No, you do not need to visit a doctor to get the free tests.
How many tests can I get?
Insurers must pay for up to eight tests per covered individual per month. So a family of four could get 32 tests each month, for instance.
What about all the tests I bought before January 15? Can I get reimbursed for them?
Sorry, but only tests bought starting January 15 qualify.
Where can I find a home test?
Finding home tests is proving challenging in many parts of the country, even as retailers limit the number that can be purchased by one customer.
It's one reason why the Biden administration is also distributing 1 billion free home tests.
Several states have also ordered home tests to be distributed free to residents, but supplies have been limited.
How do I get one of those free federal tests?
Americans can go to the website, covidtests.gov, to order the tests. There is a limit of four tests per residential address.
The US Postal Service will begin shipping the tests in late January, according to the website. The tests should ship within seven to 12 days, the White House has said.
Those who can't access the website or need additional help placing an order can call 800-232-0233, according to an FAQ section on covidtests.gov.
What if I'm on Medicare?
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is exploring ways to expand reimbursement to Medicare enrollees, according to a senior CMS official. Over-the-counter tests have not been covered by traditional Medicare before, so the agency is looking at how it could add a new payment program, said the official, who did not give a timeline on a decision.
Meanwhile, Medicare covers at no charge Covid-19 testing done in a lab when ordered by a medical professional.
Those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans should check with their insurers to see if the costs of the home tests will be covered.
Senior citizens and people with disabilities can order free home tests from the federal government.
What if I'm on Medicaid?
Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, already cover home tests with no cost-sharing.
But enrollees should contact their state agencies for specific coverage details.
What if I'm uninsured?
The uninsured can get free home tests from certain community health centers. They can also request tests through the federal program.
Also, the Department of Health and Human Services is providing up to 50 million free home tests to community health centers and Medicare-certified health clinics for distribution to patients and the community.
HHS also has established more than 10,000 free community-based pharmacy testing sites around the country.
Additional information about testing for the uninsured is available on hhs.gov.
This story has been updated with additional details Friday.