Medicare will now cover COVID-19 home testing

key takeaways

  • Individuals enrolled in Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage health plans will be able to test for COVID-19 at home for free.
  • Each Medicare enrollee can get eight free tests per month.
  • The move comes amid a Biden administration push to improve COVID-19 testing.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare will offer free at-home testing for COVID-19 starting April 4.

Eligibility applies to anyone with Medicare Part B, including those in a Medicare Advantage plan. Coverage will continue until the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

When the Biden administration rolled out a free testing program in January, Medicare recipients were excluded from the program. But in February, after lawmakers and seniors advocates criticized the government for not making testing more accessible, CMS announced that Medicare would cover free COVID-19 at-home testing until early spring.

The new insurance plan aims to remove cost barriers for people insured through a federal program that covers people age 65 or older and young adults with permanent kidney failure.

Medicare will cover up to eight FDA-authorized home COVID tests per month. According to the CMS fact sheet, the plan will pay pharmacies and participating locations directly so that Medicare Part B or Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can conveniently pick up the test for free without going through the reimbursement process.

This is the first time Medicare has offered patients an over-the-counter diagnostic test for free.

“There are a number of issues that make over-the-counter COVID-19 testing difficult to cover and pay for. However, given the importance of expanding testing coverage, CMS has identified a pathway that will expand access to free over-the-counter drug testing for Medicare beneficiaries,” CMS said in a statement. said in a statement.

Another step in making testing affordable and accessible

The Biden administration’s COVID-19 testing plan has faced scrutiny, especially as the Omicron and Delta variants have led to a surge in cases and testing has become scarce in hard-hit areas.

In mid-January, the White House began requiring private health insurers to reimburse individuals for up to eight at-home COVID-19 tests a month. Those covered by Medicare are not included in the plan, although some Medicare Advantage policyholders offered by private insurance companies are eligible for reimbursement.

To further expand testing, the White House has purchased 1 billion home tests to send to anyone living in the United States, regardless of insurance status. The program covers four free home rapid tests per family. Individuals can request a test at covidtests.gov.

About 60 million households have placed orders through the program, and tens of millions have shipped, White House deputy chief press secretary Carine Jean-Pierre told reporters last week.

CMS said Medicare enrollees can continue to get tested for free at more than 20,000 testing sites across the country. If ordered by a health provider (such as a doctor or pharmacist), they can also get a PCR test. Medicare only covers lab-performed tests once a year, no order required.

what does this mean to you

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare plan, you can now get 8 over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month at pharmacies and other locations across the country. A partial list of participating pharmacies can be found at Medicare.gov, although you should check with your pharmacy or health care provider if they are participating.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.