Have you ever felt under the weather or had a cold or cough and wondered if it was Covid?  I’ve had that thought a couple of times since the pandemic began.  It would have been nice to have gotten tested to find out for certain.  

I never got tested primarily because of cost and the inconvenience of finding and going to a test site.   As I noted in a post on January 18, The U.S. government is making it easier and cheaper to test for those with a U.S. residential mailing address.  They can order online four free rapid Covid self tests that are delivered via U.S. mail.  I ordered tests on January 18, and they arrived today.

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Unlike the rapid antigen test I took in Thailand, this test comes with clear, detailed instructions. The instructions also include a website for reporting positive results. Results take no longer than 15 minutes and should actually be quicker. My result in Thailand took only five minutes.

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Medicare and Private Insurance Also Provide Free Covid Tests

Effective January 15, 2022, insurance companies and health plans are required to cover eight free over-the-counter at-home tests per covered individual per month. For example, a family of four all on the same plan would be able to get up to 32 such tests covered by their health plan per month. The government reimburses the insurance company.

Beginning in early Spring, those on a Medicare plan can also get these tests without cost. Medicare is the federal health-insurance program for Americans aged 65 and older and some younger Americans with certain disabilities or illnesses. On February 3, the administration announced that Medicare and Medicare Advantage recipients will be eligible for up to eight free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per covered individual per month beginning in early spring.  

More testing has been needed for a long time. While these rapid antigen tests are less accurate that the gold-standard RT-PCR tests, they will identify many infections. Once a person knows they have Covid, hopefully they will isolate, which will prevent spreading the disease.

Uninsureds Have Some Access To Free Testing As Well

In the U.S., state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program programs cover FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 tests without cost-sharing.

Final Thoughts

It is great to have access to multiple free Covid tests even if accuracy is less than perfect. The downside of these programs is that a few of the uninsured may not qualify. It will be interesting to see if the increased access to testing and actual knowledge of infected status might lead to more scenarios in which criminal or civil liability for spreading Covid could be imposed.

These programs are specific to the U.S.. Other countries have been testing at a higher rate for a long time. What is the state of Covid testing where you live?