Free at-home COVID tests available

Published: January 15, 2022 6:47 PM EST
Updated: January 18, 2022 6:45 AM EST

The Biden administration has created a new program to make COVID-19 testing more accessible. This means, beginning on Saturday, people can get at-home COVID tests through their private insurance. And, on Wednesday, you’ll be able to order COVID-19 tests online for free.

This means people with private health insurance will be reimbursed for the total cost of their COVID-19 tests starting Saturday. This includes tests bought at pharmacies, retail stores, or online vendors. Just be sure to save your receipts.

Marissa Levine is a professor of public health at the University of South Florida. “Because this is new, and today is the first day that it’s required, folks need to be careful about understanding how ready their insurance companies are to do this and to support it,” said Levine. 

And while testing capacity continues to increase, professor Levine wants to remind you not to go to an emergency room to get tested. “We know the hospitals are incredibly busy right now with COVID and many other things too. So, keep an eye out, look for other testing options. If you’re not somebody who actually needs emergency care yourself,” said Levine.

The fast-spreading omicron variant has created an unprecedented demand for COVID-19 testing. Yet, people across America are struggling to find the tests they need.

That’s why, on Wednesday, the federal government is launching a website where people can order free rapid tests. This website is called covidtests.gov, and, the White House says, each household will be able to order up to four tests.

Dr. Larry Hobbs is the emergency department director at Gulf Coast Medical Center. “I think the more tests that are available, the better off we’ll be,” said Dr. Hobbs.

Hobbs says the more we can test, the better control we have over the spread of the disease. “If you get infected and you are a healthy individual, the chances of you getting really sick it’s pretty low with omicron, but it’s also extremely contagious, so you could infect someone who is not very healthy and has a poor immune system, and they could get sicker and possibly end up in the hospital or in the intensive care unit,” Hobbs said.

Professor Levine also says it’s essential for people to know what COVID-19 tests do and when to use them. “The bottom line is, get tested if you’re going to do something with the results. If you’re not going to do anything with the results, there’s no need,” said Levine.

The covidtests.gov website will go live on Wednesday. Users will have to provide their names and addresses to get their tests. The test will ship within seven to 12 days of ordering them.

President Biden also announced this week that the government will be shipping high-quality masks to Americans for free. This is something health experts have been waiting for.