A resident displays an at-home rapid COVID-19 test kit in Philadelphia, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The Biden administration is buying 500 million at-home COVID test kits to give Americans for free.

Americans will be able to order test kits to be delivered to their homes starting in January.

The administration will also require insurers to reimburse rapid test kits starting in January.

The Biden administration is purchasing 500 million at home, rapid COVID-19 tests to distribute to Americans at no cost in response to a rise in cases spurred in part by the highly contagious Omicron variant, the White House announced on Tuesday morning.

The emergence of Omicron colliding with the winter holidays created a sharp demand for COVID-19 testing that ran up against a short supply of at-home, over-the-counter tests, and inadequate infrastructure for in-person PCR testing.

Americans around the country and in large cities like New York have found pharmacies sold out of over-the-counter COVID-19 test kits and contended with hours-long lines to get a test.

In a Tuesday afternoon speech at the White House, President Joe Biden said that his administration will also establish “emergency testing sites” in places that need additional capacity.

“I don’t think anybody anticipated this was going to be as rapidly spreading as it did,” Biden said about the Omicron variant.

Here’s what we know about how and when Americans can get a free test kit:

When can I get a free test?

The Biden administration will start making test kits available for free at a yet-to-be-announced point in January. Eight different brands of at-home rapid COVID tests are currently authorized for use by the Food & Drug Administration.

“500 million tests in January is the largest order we have ever made to date, and we are going to do it as quickly as we can, but they won’t be available until January,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a Tuesday briefing.

Will the government automatically send free rapid test kits to all American households?

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No. Americans that want a free test will need to order one. The administration will set up websites that will allow Americans to order a kit to be shipped to their home at some point in January.

“We will have more information as it is available, including what the website looks like,” Psaki said. “We will make the website available as soon as these tests are available.”

Can I get the cost of a COVID-19 rapid test reimbursed by my insurance in the meantime?

The short answer for most of the 150 million Americans with private health insurance is: not yet.

The Biden administration announced in early December that they would also issue a mandate requiring private insurers to fully reimburse the costs of rapid, at-home COVID-19 test kits purchased over-the-counter.

But the reimbursement requirement hasn’t gone into effect yet — the White House has said they’ll release the exact details of the rule by January 15.

The reimbursement mandate also won’t be retroactive for past purchases, meaning that the millions of Americans who shelled out money to buy rapid test kits in preparation for the holidays will have to shoulder those costs out of pocket.

One state, Vermont, has a state-level mandate requiring all insurers who operate in the state to reimburse all over-the-counter.

But while most major private insurers cover the costs of COVID-19 tests conducted in a medical setting or at a test site, many insurers will only reimburse over-the-counter COVID test kits that were ordered by a doctor.

Read the original article on Business Insider



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