The Biden administration moved Monday to require private insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of at-home, rapid Covid-19 test kits beginning Jan. 15.
The new policy will cover a certain number of tests per month, depending on the size of the covered family, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said.
The move, previously announced in December, comes as the Biden administration wrestles with a historic rise in Covid-19 cases across the country, and is facing criticism for a nationwide shortage of at-home tests. The new coverage—and plans to ship 500 million at-home test kits any Americans who want them— is key to the administration’s effort to curb the virus’ spread.
But by making the tests effectively free for consumers with private health coverage, insurers and employers fear the costs of the tests could skyrocket.
The program will allow insurers to set up networks of preferred suppliers to make tests available with no up-front costs, but insurers will still be required to reimburse up to $12 per test for claims for tests that people buy elsewhere, the Department of Health and Human Services said.
While a family of four on the same plan could get up to 32 covered tests per month, there’s no limit on the number of tests, including at-home tests, that are covered if ordered or administered by a health care provider following an individualized clinical assessment, the HHS said.
“Under President Biden’s leadership, we are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans. This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
“Since we took office, we have more than tripled the number of sites where people can get COVID-19 tests for free, and we’re also purchasing half a billion at-home, rapid tests to send for free to Americans who need them. 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.”
—With assistance from John Tozzi