Saving $100 with Free Rapid at Home COVID-19 Tests

A few weeks ago several members of my extended family posted on our family chat group that they were exhibiting COVID like symptoms. Given we just had met many of these family members at Thanksgiving I was alarmed when I read the message and like many in that group rushed out to get a rapid test kit.

Because PCR testing (the gold standard when it comes to identifying COVID) meant long lines, invasive swabbing and a 3 day wait for results, the at home rapid test would at least let me know if one of my immediate family members had COVID. We could always get a PCR test later, but if one of us tested positive then we would have to isolate to stop the spread.

After looking online, and I was surprised at the range of options and limited stock, I ended up buying a bunch of test kits through Amazon and CVS. The total was about $120. On average each test selling was around $12 – if you could get them!

Fortunately we all tested negative, confirmed via PCR tests in the subsequent days. What a relief!

But I was surprised how expensive the at home tests were. For something that likely costs 50c to manufacture, the sales price average of $12 seemed excessive. And on some online forums people were selling tests for $50 each. With the rapid spread of Omicron and testing kit shortages, this only seems to be getting worse.

Fortunately the government has stepped and mandated that private health insurers will now be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans. Based on an average cost of $12, this is nearly $100 of savings for a lot of families.

“Today’s action further removes financial barriers and expands access to COVID-19 tests for millions of people,” Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement.

Where can I get these tests?

The plan, announced by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is in effect from January 15th and applies to all at-home tests approved by the FDA. Consumers may purchase the tests online or in person, and the cost will either be covered upfront or people will have to file a claim with their insurer for reimbursement.

For those without insurance you will be able to pick up free, rapid at-home COVID-19 test kits at many Public Library and government/city buildings. Some of these pick-up options are available now, but more should be rolling out soon. The DHHS will also be posting more information on where these can be ordered online.

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