Well-Being

Insurance companies are now required to cover costs of rapid COVID tests. Here’s what to know.

Story at a glance

  • Private health insurers are now required to reimburse purchases of rapid antigen tests.
  • Individuals can be reimbursed for up to eight tests per month.
  • This does not include tests prescribed by doctors.

The government order for private insurance companies to cover the cost of rapid antigen coronavirus tests went into effect over the weekend. The companies must reimburse people for buying up to eight tests per month, but individuals will still most most likely have to pay up front and wait for that reimbursement to come through. 

Insurance companies will have to set up systems and billing codes to make this work. Some will need to process claims manually with physical receipts, at least at the beginning. “This is taking things back to the olden days, where you’ll have a person throwing all these paper slips in a shoe box, and eventually stuffing it into an envelope and sending it off to a health insurer to decipher,” said Ceci Connolly, who is the president and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, to The New York Times. 


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The White House recommends saving all receipts, and one insurance professional even recommends saving all the boxes that the tests come in. “There will be some people who buy them, and then have a six-month nightmare trying to get reimbursed,” said Jenny Chumbley Hogue, a Texas-based insurance broker, to The Times. 

It is important to note that this reimbursement only applies to tests purchased after the rule came into effect, so from Jan. 15 and onwards. Any tests purchased before that date will not be eligible. They must also be authorized for use by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) on this list. Many of these tests are out of stock online and in retailers, so some people have begun relying on stock tracking sites and Twitter restock accounts. 

The Biden administration is also gearing up to mail rapid tests to people who request them from the new website COVIDtests.gov, which will be taking orders starting Jan. 19. Each person is allowed to order four tests for free, according to the site. This is part of President Biden’s initiative to send out 500 million tests to Americans, although it is unclear how many are available and how soon they will reach people. 


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