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Biden to require private health insurers to pay for at-home Covid-19 tests

Starting Saturday, up to 8 tests per person per month may be covered without cost to the consumer when acquired at specific outlets, federal agency says.
Binax at-home Covid-19 testing kits get distributed in New York City, Dec. 23, 2021.
Binax at-home Covid-19 testing kits get distributed in New York City, Dec. 23, 2021.AP file

The Biden administration will begin requiring private health insurance providers to pay for at-home rapid tests for Covid-19 this weekend, officials said Monday.

The shift, set to take effect Jan. 15, comes as the omicron variant continues surging across the country and the administration tries to boost access to the hard-to-find tests.

Under the new rules, insurers will have to cover eight tests per person per month, the Health and Human Services Administration said in a release. 

Eligible tests need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and they will not be subject to deductibles or other cost-sharing requirements, the department said.

The administration will “incentivize” the companies to allow people to get the tests with no out-of-pocket costs through “preferred” pharmacies and retailers, according to the release.

In a statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the move was “part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost.”

Monday’s announcement comes nearly one week after retailers that had been selling Abbott’s popular at home-test said that they were hiking its price after a three-month agreement with the administration to sell them at cost expired.  

In a separate effort, the White House said last week that it was finalizing details in a plan to ship 500 million free at-home tests to all Americans.

Two contracts were finalized with companies in Virginia and California to send the tests via the United States Postal Service. One of the contracts totaled 13.3 million tests, though it wasn’t clear how many tests the other agreement would cover.

Nor is it clear when the administration will launch the website that will allow people to request the tests.