Critter Corner: How Can I Get a Free At-Home COVID-19 Test if I’m on Medicare?

Hayek 1Dear Hayek,

My daughter was convinced that she had the omicron variant of COVID-19 last month but couldn’t get a test at any of the local pharmacies because they were sold out everywhere. It turns out she had to wait a few days and was able to make an appointment to get tested and luckily, it was negative. I would like to have tests on hand, so there is no wait if someone in the family has COVID symptoms, so they don’t go out and infect someone else. Are the at-home COVID-19 tests covered by Medicare, and if not, is there a way we can get them for free? Thanks for your help!

Anita Fretest

Dear Anita,

This month, the COVID-19 omicron variant brought the number of U.S. coronavirus cases to the highest level ever, with nearly 800,000 new cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Jan. 12, 2022. As cases continue to increase, consumers also find that at-home tests are increasingly difficult to find — and expensive.

Federal Website Is Now Taking Orders

Many pharmacies and other stores have taped signs to their front doors that say: “No COVID Tests.” And early in January, a major national grocer was selling a single test online for $49.99, according to Lindsey Dawson, an associate director at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Recently, however, the federal government has launched covidtests.gov, a federal website where any American who wants an at-home rapid test can order them at no cost. The government has purchased 500 million tests and plans to buy another 500 million. Each residential household can order four tests under this program regardless of how many people live at that address. The tests will be mailed free between seven and 12 days after they are ordered.

Rapid at-home tests, also known as antigen tests, provide results in 15 minutes, compared to the several days it can take to hear back about PCR — polymerase chain reaction — testing, but PCR tests are generally considered more accurate.

What if You Are on Medicare?

If you need more tests, original Medicare does not cover them, unfortunately. Enrollees covered by Medicare Advantage plans, however, should check with their plans to see if they will cover the cost of the test. Medicare beneficiaries will be able to get free tests at some community health centers or through the federal website. Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have not said why Medicare is not part of the free-test program.

Hope this helps!

Stay healthy,

Hayek

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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