Free at-home COVID tests: New program doesn’t cover everyone

Coronavirus

FILE – This Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 file photo shows a BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories, in Tacoma, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(NEXSTAR) – The first of the White House’s major initiatives to get everyone access to free, at-home COVID testing takes effect Saturday. Starting Jan. 15, private health insurers will be required to reimburse members for up to eight test kits per month.

But the new policy doesn’t benefit every American.

For starters, it only applies to people who have private health insurance. That leaves out uninsured people, an estimated 28 million or 8.6% of Americans.

It also doesn’t affect an even larger segment of the population: Americans 65 and older covered by Medicare. That’s 18.4% of Americans, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2020.

Not everyone who has public health coverage is left out. Medicaid recipients and children covered by CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) will be eligible for reimbursement.

“People with Medicaid or CHIP coverage should contact their state Medicaid or CHIP agency for information regarding the specifics of coverage for at-home COVID-19 tests, as coverage rules may vary by state,” said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Medicare recipients and uninsured Americans will still benefit from the White House’s plan to distribute 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests directly to people for free. The website COVIDTests.gov will provide tests at no cost, including no shipping fee, the White House announced Friday.

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