Beginning this spring, you can get free at-home COVID tests with Medicare.
On February 3, 2022, President Biden announced that Medicare will cover over-the-counter COVID-19 tests beginning in early spring. (This is in addition to the lab testing that Medicare already covers.)
Medicare coverage for at-home COVID tests is available whether you have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.
This announcement follows the Biden administration's direction to private insurance companies to cover up to eight at-home tests per month. As with the Medicare decision, private insurance coverage is slated to go into effect this spring.
How to take advantage of the COVID testing benefit
Medicare Part B will pay for up to eight at-home COVID tests each month. There is no cost to you (meaning the standard Part B co-insurance does not apply).
To have Medicare pay for your tests, you must use one of the participating pharmacies. (We will update this article with a link to the participating pharmacies as soon as it is finalized.)
Finally, you do not have to pay for these tests at all. That means no pesky paperwork to get reimbursed. Instead, participating pharmacies will be paid directly by the Medicare program.
What does this news mean for you?
People aged 65 and older have the highest COVID vaccination rates in the country. However, they also are at an increased risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.
Although Medicare has covered COVID testing since the beginning of the pandemic, this change allows you to test as soon as you discover you were exposed to the coronavirus. It also means you don't have to wait for a testing appointment to open up or spend time in a doctor's waiting room surrounded by sick people.
How to get free COVID testing now
While the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) works to implement this new initiative quickly, you still have multiple paths to get a free COVID test right now:
- Have free tests from covidtests.gov delivered directly to your door (4 per household)
- Use one of 20,000 community-based COVID testing centers
- If a doctor or other licensed healthcare provider orders a lab test for COVID-19, Medicare covers 100% of the cost
- During a public health emergency (which we are still in), Medicare also covers one COVID-19 lab test not ordered by a healthcare provider
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it may cover over-the-counter COVID tests. Check with your plan provider to find out.
What other COVID services does Medicare cover?
In addition to both laboratory and at-home COVID testing, your Medicare coverage also includes:
- The COVID vaccine and booster (you pay $0 for these)
- COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments (if you qualify; $0 co-insurance)
- Medically-necessary hospitalization (standard Medicare Part A costs apply)
Medicare has also expanded telehealth coverage during the public health emergency.
How to protect yourself against COVID
The best way to protect yourself from COVID is still to:
- Practice social distancing (keeping 6' between yourself and others)
- Wash your hands frequently
- Wear an N95 or KN95 mask when indoors or in crowded outdoor venues
- Avoid touching your face if you haven't washed your hands
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects you touch frequently (remote controls, door knobs, etc.)
Finally, if you aren't vaccinated, get vaccinated. And if you are but didn't get the booster, get boosted. Getting the COVID vaccine doesn't mean you'll never catch COVID. It does, however, mean you may be less likely hospitalized or die from COVID.
- Unvaccinated adults aged 65 and older are 51 times more likely to be hospitalized because of COVID
- Unvaccinated adults are 68 times more likely to die of COVID than their fully-vaccinated counterparts
COVID-19 Over-the-Counter (OTC) Tests & Medicare Frequently Asked Questions
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Medicare and the COVID-19 Vaccine
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