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Free COVID-19 tests: Here’s the White House website to order free at-home kits

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Starting Jan. 15, insurance coverage firms should cowl the price of at-home fast COVID-19 assessments.


Sarah Tew/CNET

For the most up-to-date information and details about the coronavirus pandemic, go to the WHO and CDC web sites.

On Friday, the Biden administration introduced that beginning Jan. 19 Americans will likely be in a position to request 4 free COVID-19 assessments per family at COVIDTests.gov, with kits delivery inside seven to twelve days.

“This program will ensure that Americans have at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests available in the weeks and months ahead — in addition to the number of other ways they can get tested,” the White House mentioned in a launch. “The administration is quickly completing a contracting process for the unprecedented purchase of 1 billion at-home, rapid tests to distribute as part of this program.” 

The website launches 4 days after medical health insurance firms should start protecting the price of eight at-home check kits per coated particular person every month. Coverage begins on Jan. 15 and the federal mandate permits medical health insurance firms to set up in-network pharmacies the place they’ll cowl the price of assessments up entrance, somewhat than require reimbursement. 

For extra, get the newest on masks mandates and how to select the proper booster shot for you.

How do I get free at-home COVID-19 assessments?

Beginning Jan. 19, Americans will likely be in a position to request 4 free assessments per family on-line at COVIDTests.gov. The United States Postal Service will ship kits in the continental United States via First-Class Package Service. Shipments to Alaska, Hawaii, US Territories and any navy addresses will likely be despatched via Priority Mail. 

According to a White House assertion, the kits will often ship inside seven to 12 days of ordering.

President Biden introduced Thursday the authorities was doubling the variety of accessible free assessments to 1 billion and offering 5 million PCR assessments for free to colleges per 30 days. 

Several states have already began issuing free at-home COVID-19 assessments to residents, together with ColoradoNew JerseyMarylandOhioOregonMassachusettsIowaConnecticutWashington and New Hampshire. Washington, D.C., is making at-home assessments accessible for pickup at space libraries whereas different cities, reminiscent of New York and Boston, are distributing them to native well being clinics. We’ll proceed to replace this record as extra begin providing free COVID assessments.

Massachusetts and Connecticut each not too long ago introduced bold plans to distribute thousands and thousands of assessments, however hit provide chain snags: The delay in Massachusetts pressured some colleges to postpone reopening after the vacation break, in accordance to WCVB in Boston. After a tough begin, Connecticut has picked up the tempo, delivering 1.8 million assessments to residents in the week ending Jan. 7, in accordance to CT Insider.

How to get reimbursed for at-home COVID-19 check kits

As of Jan. 15, medical health insurance firms will likely be required to reimburse Americans for eight at-home antigen assessments per particular person a month, underneath a plan introduced by Biden. If a person has been directed to bear COVID-19 testing by their medical supplier due to underlying well being circumstances or different components, there isn’t any restrict on the variety of assessments coated.

Carriers can set up in-network pharmacies the place the price will likely be coated up entrance, and cap protection at out-of-network retailers at $12 per check.  

Though the Biden plan just isn’t retroactive, some states, together with Vermont, mandated that insurers begin paying for at-home kits earlier.

You might also need to test together with your employer, as some personal firms additionally started providing reimbursement choices for at-home assessments earlier than the Jan. 15 deadline.

Do Medicare and Medicaid suppliers cowl at-home COVID check kits?

Biden’s new guidelines on reimbursement for at-home COVID-19 assessments don’t at the moment apply to Medicaid and Medicare, though Bloomberg Government stories check package producers are lobbying to change that. 

People with Medicare — a free federal program for all Americans 65 and older — who even have personal medical health insurance can obtain reimbursement from their insurer.

State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, aka CHIP, applications are at the moment required to cowl FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 assessments with out cost-sharing, in accordance to HHS.

What if you do not have medical health insurance?

For these with out insurance coverage, Biden mentioned there will likely be “thousands of locations” the place you may decide up free COVID-19 check kits to use at residence in personal, somewhat than get swabbed in a drive-thru clinic. A website will likely be made accessible early in 2022 the place anybody can order free fast antigen kits delivered to their residence.

Those who haven’t got medical health insurance may entry free kits at neighborhood well being clinics and different native websites. In a Dec. 2 announcement, the White House additionally promised to distribute at the least 50 million free assessments to neighborhood facilities round the nation.

Where can I purchase at-home COVID-19 assessments?

At-home fast COVID-19 assessments are often accessible at pharmacies like Walgreens, Walmart and CVS, and through on-line retailers like Amazon. The White House is permitting insurers to set up a roster of in-network pharmacies and to cap protection of kits purchased at out-of-network retailers. Check together with your insurance coverage firm to see which shops are in your community.

But the fast unfold of the omicron variant has led to a check package scarcity and compelled retailers to place limits on what number of you should buy in lots of areas: Walgreens at the moment permits every buyer to buy a most of 4 at-home assessments, whereas CVS units its restrict at six. Walmart caps on-line purchases to eight assessments however has no restrict on in-store purchases.

Rapid antigen at-home assessments are out of inventory in shops and on-line in lots of areas: As of Jan. 12, Walmart has On/Go’s 10-minute self-test accessible on its website. Amazon at the moment has On/Go in inventory at $25 for 2 assessments and QuickVue at $24 for a field of two. We’ll proceed to replace as extra choices develop into accessible.

If your space drugstore is out of check kits, attempt your state or native well being division, as many have began distributing free kits to residents. See the subsequent part for extra data and hyperlinks to the states at the moment offering free at-home COVID assessments.

How a lot do at-home COVID-19 assessments price?

Rapid antigen assessments are typically less expensive than residence assortment assessments. Costs range from model to model, however kits typically run about $10 to $15 apiece, with two assessments per package.

Both Walgreens and CVS are promoting Abbott’s BinaxNow and Quidel’s QuickVue assessments — two of the first approved by the FDA — for $24 for a pack of two. Acon’s FlowFlex fast check is at the moment $10 for one check at each Walgreens and CVS. The On/Go package of two fast assessments is at the moment promoting for $25 on Amazon and $30 on Walmart.

Home assortment assessments, which require a nasal swab or saliva pattern to be despatched to a lab for evaluation, price way more than the fast antigen assessments and require a for much longer ready interval to get outcomes. But the “molecular” assessments are thought-about way more correct than antigen assessments. CVS and Walgreens are promoting Labcorp’s Pixel home-collection check for $125.

The excessive scarcity of kits has led some to resell them on platforms like Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTook, usually at an inflated worth and with fraudulent merchandise. 

“We’ve received reports that unauthorized sellers are trying to profit from the pandemic by selling COVID-19 tests online,” Washington Attorney General Karl Racine tweeted Jan 4. “Please beware and only buy tests through authorized retailers so you can ensure the integrity of your test.” 

Facebook’s guardian firm, Meta, informed CNN Business it prohibits the sale of check kits on any of its platforms.

Should you utilize a fast at-home check or get a PCR?

The two essential kinds of COVID-19 assessments are fast antigen assessments and polymerase chain response assessments. Antigen assessments may be taken at residence and return ends in about 10 to quarter-hour. PCR assessments are extra correct however require lab work and customarily do not present outcomes for at the least 12 hours and even up to 5 days.

Both assessments sometimes use nasal swab samples, although some gather saliva. PCR assessments administered by knowledgeable could require a nasopharyngeal pattern that includes a a lot deeper nostril swab. Rapid antigen assessments often require swirling a swab in the nostril lower than an inch deep.

PCR assessments amplify genetic materials from the collected pattern up to a billion instances to detect even the slightest quantity of COVID-19 genes, making them extremely correct. They’re additionally dearer, often costing greater than $100 apiece.

Rapid antigen assessments merely detect the presence of COVID-19 antigens — the substances that immediate your immune system to create antibodies — and work very similar to residence being pregnant assessments. If your pattern accommodates COVID-19 antigens, the skinny line of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies on the check strip will change coloration.

Because fast assessments are merely searching for the existence of antigens, they work greatest when somebody is symptomatic. Rapid antigen assessments are much less profitable with early infections and asymptomatic instances. The threat of a false unfavorable is way larger with a fast check than a false constructive.

The sort of check you select will largely rely in your scenario. Do you want outcomes proper now, and are prepared to threat much less accuracy? Then fast antigen suits the invoice. If you need nearer to 100% accuracy and do not want prompt outcomes, the “gold standard” PCR is your best option.


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What to do for those who check constructive for COVID-19 utilizing an at-home check?

If you’re taking an at-home check and it is constructive for COVID-19, it is really helpful that you simply share the outcomes together with your medical supplier and native well being division. Methods of reporting self-tests to well being departments range wildly, although: Some have on-line types, others require e-mail and nonetheless others use cellphone reporting. Check your native well being division website for particular information on how to report a constructive consequence.

After receiving a constructive check consequence, it is best to isolate for at the least 5 days, and longer for those who’re symptomatic, in accordance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though the threat of false positives from fast assessments is low, most medical consultants and well being officers nonetheless advocate confirming a constructive at-home check with a subsequent PCR check.

For extra data, this is the newest on the federal vaccine mandate and every part you want to find out about the Moderna booster shot.

The data contained on this article is for instructional and informational functions solely and isn’t supposed as well being or medical recommendation. Always seek the advice of a doctor or different certified well being supplier relating to any questions you could have a few medical situation or well being aims.

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