Don't forget about the monthly free tests for COVID-19

Pplanning to get together with loved ones for the holidays? Here’s a timely reminder that every member of your family enrolled in health insurance is entitled to eight free fast home COVID-19 tests every month. This applies to any insurance you have – whether or not it is through Medicarethe Affordable Care Act marketplace, Medicaid, or your employer—because rapid test reimbursement is still required by the federal government.

There are two main ways to purchase these tests. The first is to pick them up at a pharmacy or store that your plan designates as “in network.” If you’re on Medicare, there’s also a partial list of pharmacies offering over-the-counter tests here. In many cases, the advantage is that you won’t have to pay for the tests; they will be immediately covered. Some pharmacies, incl Walgreens and CVS, also offer online programs where you can find tests, enter your insurance information, and then take them in person. However, insurance companies sometimes require people to purchase tests themselves and then apply for reimbursement.

However, insurance companies sometimes require people to buy tests themselves—online, at a pharmacy, or from other retailers—and then apply for reimbursement. Your plan is required to set you back up to $12 per test (or $24 for a box of two). Before you buy, you should check your individual insurer’s reimbursement requirements and plan to keep your receipt. There are some contexts where insurers are not required to reimburse for testing. For example, they are not legally required to pay for ongoing tests required by the employer as a condition of employment.

At this stage of the pandemic, rapid tests for COVID-19 at home are indispensable tools. Experts I recommend to take them before gathering with other people, especially if they are at high risk of serious illness (including those over 65) or are not up to date on their vaccines. You should also test any time you have symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, sore throat or runny nose, or after contact with someone who has had COVID-19 in the past five days.

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