How to order free at-home COVID-19 tests

MGN

If you’ve been on unsuccessful hunts for rapid COVID-19 tests in stores lately, your luck should be turning around soon. Starting Wednesday, January 19, every household in the U.S. will be able to order up to four free rapid tests at the government website covidtest.gov. A “beta” testing version of the site is already live. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days, according to the White House.

The initiative is an effort by the Biden administration to accelerate COVID-19 testing capacity in the face of the highly transmissible omicron variant that has rapidly spread across the nation and internationally. The White House has ordered 420 million tests for distribution, with plans to increase the order to one billion tests.

“Testing is a vital part of stopping the spread of COVID-19. President Biden’s actions to add private health plan coverage for at-home tests is one more important option to assure Minnesotans have access to COVID-19 tests at no cost to you,” said MN Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold.

Also as of January 15, private health insurance companies will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free.  

What is covered?

  • Coverage is for over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic tests authorized, cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Up to $12 (or actual cost if less than $12) per individual test, and up to 8 tests per person per month, is covered.
  • This additional cost coverage applies to private insurers or group health plans (such as self-insured employers). It also includes MNsure private health plans for individuals.
  • Different guidelines apply to Medicare and Medicaid public health plans.  

How are costs covered?

Check with your health plan first: The most important guidance for Minnesotans is to check with your health plan first, prior to purchasing at-home tests, to ensure you are following the steps necessary to have your costs covered.

Find your health plan contact information by looking on the back of your health insurance card. Contact member services.

Check for direct coverage:  Rather than seeking reimbursement for test costs, check with your health plan about direct coverage options, where you might be able to obtain at-home tests to be free at the point of sale, so you do not need to request reimbursement.  

Follow the process for reimbursement:  If you pay for at-home tests out of your own pocket, you will need to find out from your health plan how to submit to get those costs reimbursed. Your health plan may require you to submit receipts for reimbursement if you pay for the tests out of pocket and send in a form.

Your health plan may still be in process of establishing how you can obtain reimbursement or direct coverage, but both options are required for health plans to offer.

The CDC guidelines state that people should test five days after exposure to someone with COVID or as soon as symptoms occur. A person with symptoms should self-quarantine until a negative test confirms their COVID-19 status.

“We encourage you to get tested for COVID-19 if you are exposed to or feel symptoms of COVID-19, whether it’s at home or at a testing site,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcom. “Testing is one of the critical strategies to slow the spread and prevent further hospitalizations and deaths from this virus.”

Updated mask guidance

In additional COVID-19 news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently upgraded its mask guidance to encourage Americans to wear N95s and KN95 masks to better combat the omicron variant. “Masks and respirators (i.e., specialized filtering masks such as ‘N95s’) can provide different levels of protection depending on the type of mask and how they are used.

“Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks, and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection,” according to the CDC. You can check the authenticity of your N95 masks by going here.

For more questions regarding at-home testing, go here.

Find a vaccine site and more info at mn.gov/covid19.

Information provided in part by WhiteHouse.gov and CDC.