Free at-home COVID-19 test kits are available

Mid-Missourians with private health insurance are able to get up to eight free at-home COVID-19 test kits per month.


COLUMBIA – Mid-Missourians with private health insurance are now able to get up to eight free at-home COVID-19 test kits per month.

Starting Saturday, private health insurers are required to reimburse people at a rate of up to $12 per individual test—or the cost of the test, if less than $12—according to the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services. 

“Most people with a health plan can go online, or to a pharmacy or store to purchase an at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at no cost,” the CMS FAQ said.

For those already bought and paid for at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests before Saturday, they might not get their reimbursement. The government suggested people contact their health plan to inquire about more information.

If consumers are charged for the test kits after Jan. 15, CMS says they should keep their receipts and ask for reimbursement from the insurance company. 

Although the government encouraged health plans to provide prompt reimbursement, it is still unclear how long it will take to receive test reimbursements.

Anthem, MU health insurance carrier, has not published any details of the process for reimbursement. They suggested people stay informed by visiting their COVID-19 resources website.  

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Although a Columbia resident Willie Johns knew the test kits started to be covered by his insurance today, he still chose to pay for it by himself and keep the receipt for future reimbursements.

“I know it might not work so well on the first day,” Johns said, “I know that was a recent passing, so I’m just gonna have to go look and find out how to get reimbursed for it.”

He says the program will still help to increase the kits’ availability for the community. 

“The availability of having it at home versus waiting in lines, or like not being able to do it at all, that was another situation that I ran across the day. There was no availability to do any testing today,” Johns said.  

This new coverage reimbursement policy doesn’t apply to members who have Medicare, Medicare Supplement, Medicaid, or voluntary insurance.

According to the Medicare website, “Original Medicare does not pay for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests. People with Original Medicare can pick up free at-home tests from community health centers and Medicare-certified health clinics.”

However, some people with Medicare Advantage Plans may be covered at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests, according to the Medicare website.

For those uninsured, they can begin ordering up to four free at-home COVID-19 rapid tests per household at COVIDtests.gov starting Jan. 19, according to an announcement from the Biden administration. However, they won’t arrive until seven to 12 days after being ordered.

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