The Biden administration today said it would soon require private health insurers to cover the cost of at-home Covid-19 tests as part of an effort to tamp down infections during the winter months.
The new policy means that the more than 150 million Americans with private coverage will be able to get reimbursed for the rapid tests as long as they submit their expenses for reimbursement.
The change represents the core of a ramped-up effort to encourage more widespread testing, in a renewed bid to slow the virus’ spread and better track the emerging Omicron variant. The administration today also unveiled a wide-ranging strategy aimed at making Covid-19 vaccines more widely and easily available ahead of the winter.
The administration appears to be relying on authorities within the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that direct private insurers to provide coverage and not impose cost sharing of diagnostic tests that detect Covid-19 during the public health emergency.
“This is our assessment of that, that it should cover, and it must cover at-home tests for Americans on that private insurance,” a senior administration official told reporters.
However, the requirement will not take effect immediately. Three federal departments — Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury — must still issue official guidance on the reimbursement requirement, language that may not be published until Jan. 15.
The forthcoming policy change will also not be retroactive, meaning people will not be able to obtain reimbursement for at-home tests they already purchased, the senior administration official said. It is also unclear if limitations will be placed on the number of at-home tests individuals can submit for reimbursement.
“Individuals will generally need to submit receipts to their insurer,” White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz wrote in an email. “Further details will be included in the guidance the tri-Departments are developing.”
It appears insurers will still not be required to cover costs tied to workplace screening programs — a fact sheet issued by the White House states such testing will “remain consistent with current guidance.”
“Plans and issuers are not required to provide coverage of testing such as for public health surveillance or employment purposes,” current guidance states.
The policy also will not apply to Americans with insurance through public programs like Medicare and Medicaid or those without insurance. The White House separately said it plans to expand the number of free tests distributed through community sites, including rural clinics, to 50 million tests, up from 25 million.