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… ‘we’re not there yet, but we will get there …’

By Staff | Jan 21, 2022

If you want a free COVID rapid test that you can take at home to see if that slight cough and scratchy throat might be the new Omicron variant, you can get one.

In theory.

As part of a program announced by the Biden Administration, free rapid tests may be ordered at covidtests.gov with the federal government allocating half of its billion test commitment to mailing these free tests to everyone who requests them.

The website order will provide four free tests per address. The tests will be mailed and orders will “usually ship in 7-12 days.”

In addition, the expanded testing initiative also provides that, as of Jan. 15, private health insurance companies are required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free.

“This means consumers with private health insurance coverage will be able to get these tests for free,” a Jan. 14 White House release states. “Insurance companies and health plans are required to cover eight free at-home tests per covered individual per month. That means a family of four, all on the same plan, would be able to get 32 of these tests covered by their health plan per month. As part of the requirement, the Administration is strongly incentivizing plans and insurers to allow people to get these tests directly through preferred pharmacies or retailers with no out-of-pocket costs, with the plan or insurer covering the cost upfront, eliminating the need for people to submit reimbursement claims.”

An additional 10 million COVID-19 tests will be made available to schools nationwide each month.

That’s the good.

And it’s very good as testing access is to be not only greatly expanded, but easier.

The not so good?

Free at-home rapid testing was among President Biden’s campaign promises. While we recognize issues on the supply side, a year does seems too long given the fact that such tests have long been free and available in Canada and many European countries, and presidential powers during a national state of emergency can boost programs of importance.

President Biden, in fact, touted his accomplishments on the COVID battlefront stemming from the use of such authority in a press conference Wednesday.

And the ugly?

According to a Jan. 19 analysis by Kaiser Health News, “a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues,” free isn’t necessarily free to everyone when it comes to running to your favorite pharmacy to make sure you have tests on hand.

Those on Medicare will have to pay for their tests themselves and those on Medicaid will need to get their free test kits at community centers, the foundation-supported news report states.

If your insurance company does not have an arrangement with your local pharmacy, you’re going to have to request reimbursement.

Which, according to KHN, you may not get in total.

“The reimbursement is set at $12 per test. If you pay $30 for a test — and that is not unheard of — your insurer is only on the hook for $12. You eat the $18,” the agency states in its “5 Things You Should Know About ‘Free’ At-Home Covid Tests” article, which may be found at https://khn.org/news/article/5-things-you-should-know-about-free-at-home-covid-tests/ .

So delivery is shy of promise — a Medicare opt-out? Really? — but it is progress as testing, and just plain old staying home when you’re sick, are ways to mitigate the spread.

“COVID-19 is not going to give up and accept things — you know, it’s just — it’s not going to go away immediately,” President Biden said in Wednesday’s press conference. “But I’m not going to give up and accept things as they are now.

“Some people may call what’s happening now the ‘new normal.’ I call it a job not yet finished. It will get better. We’re moving toward a time when COVID-19 won’t disrupt our daily lives; where COVID-19 won’t be a crisis but something to protect against and a threat.

” Look, we’re not there yet, but we will get there.”

If we pull together, we will indeed.

— Breeze editorial