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Photo of an over-the-counter rapid antigen COVID=19 test.
Providing access to free COVID-19 testing is an important part of the Biden administration’s plan.
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Access to OTC COVID-19 Tests to Expand with Medicare Coverage this Spring

Medicare recipients will soon be able to receive up to eight free rapid tests per month

Feb 14, 2022
Rachel Muenz

Providing access to free COVID-19 testing, particularly over-the-counter (OTC), at-home tests, has been an important part of the Biden administration’s plan to manage the spread of the virus in the US. Now, that access is set to expand further with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announcing that Medicare will cover up to eight OTC tests per month, beginning in early spring. 

Medicare recipients will be able to receive their tests, which must be authorized or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, through qualifying pharmacies and other participating groups.

Previously, due to a number of challenges, these tests were only covered by private insurance companies, leaving those receiving coverage through either Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare on the hook for costs of OTC tests. Though there are already alternative ways to access free testing, none provided a direct solution to the lack of Medicare coverage. Once early spring rolls around and the new rule is in place, pharmacies and other entities providing OTC tests to Medicare recipients will be directly reimbursed.

In the meantime, according to the CMS announcement, those covered through Medicare have a number of other ways to access free COVID-19 testing: 

  • PCR tests and antigen tests: Free when ordered via an authorized health care professional
  • COVID-19 testing: Available through health care providers at more than 20,000 free testing sites across the US
  • OTC tests: Up to four OTC tests can be delivered to your home through covidtests.gov

While not as accurate as PCR testing, OTC tests are easier and more convenient to access, making them an important tool in identifying probable COVID-19 cases and limiting the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease.

To learn more, see the full article in National Lab Reporter, a publication from Clinical Lab Manager’s sister brand, G2 Intelligence.