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Medicare will soon start covering the cost of at-home Covid tests

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Frederic J. AFP | AFP | Getty Images

Medicare beneficiaries can now get free Covid test at home starting in early spring according to the government.

The initiative comes after Medicare was not part of a Biden administration mandate that private insurers cover the cost of over-the-counter tests — up to eight per enrollee per month. The planned change in coverage means all Medicare beneficiaries — including those on Advantage Plans — will be entitled to the same.

Medicare is a program that covers 63.3 million beneficiaries. The majority of beneficiaries (55.1 million) are 65 years old or older. Others are younger and have permanent disabilities. This means that the population is generally more susceptible to severe disease from Covid.

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The retail price of over-the-counter, at-home Covid testing can be as low as $10 or as high as hundreds of dollars. The cost of testing at a laboratory can be significantly higher.

Medicare will not cover at-home test coverage until spring but there are still ways that beneficiaries can get tests for free.

First, four can be ordered for free throughout the year. Covidtests.govThe new website was launched by the government in January. All households can access the site. You only need to enter your name and address. No insurance information is required. 

Juliette Cubanski is deputy director for the Kaiser Family Foundation’s program on Medicare policy.

There are also Medicare-certified clinics and community health centers where you can get your at-home test for no cost.

Cubanski advised that beneficiaries who have Medicare Advantage Plans should verify if they are covered for at-home testing.

Benefits can access testing at no cost outside their homes. one of more than 20,000 testing sitesThere are rapid PCR tests as well as rapid antigen tests available for lab-based tests.

If a physician or another authorized health-care provider requests it, cost sharing is not required. Beneficiaries can get one laboratory test free of charge per year, without having to obtain a prescription from a doctor.

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