Planning to gather with loved ones over the holidays? Here’s a timely reminder that every member of your family enrolled in health insurance is eligible for eight free rapid at-home COVID-19 tests every month. That goes for whatever insurance you have—whether it’s through Medicare, the Affordable Care Act marketplace, Medicaid, or your employer—because rapid-test reimbursement is still required by the federal government.
There are two main ways to purchase these tests. The first is to pick them up at a pharmacy or store that your plan designates as “in-network.” If you’re on Medicare, there’s also a partial list of the pharmacies offering over-the-counter tests here. In many cases, the advantage is that you won’t have to pay for the tests; they’ll be immediately covered. Some pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, also offer online programs where you can locate tests, enter your insurance information, and then pick them up in person. However, insurance companies sometimes require people to purchase tests themselves and then apply to be reimbursed.
However, insurance companies sometimes require people to purchase tests themselves—online, at a pharmacy, or from other retailers—and then apply to be reimbursed. Your plan is required to reimburse you up to $12 per test (or $24 for a box of two). Before buying, you should check your individual insurer’s requirements for reimbursement—and plan to hang on to your receipt. There are some contexts in which insurers are not required to reimburse for testing. For example, they are not legally bound to pay for ongoing tests demanded by an employer as a condition of employment.
At this point in the pandemic, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests are indispensable tools. Experts recommend taking them before gathering with other people, especially if they’re at high risk of severe disease (including those over age 65) or are not up-to-date on their vaccines. You should also test whenever you have COVID-19 symptoms, like a fever, sore throat, or runny nose, or after coming into contact with someone who has had COVID-19 in the last five days.