Here's how you can get free home COVID tests through the federal government and insurance

Starting Saturday, many Americans can get home COVID-19 tests at no cost through their private insurance. They can obtain the tests from pharmacies, retailers and online vendors.

The program is part of the Biden administration's effort to increase access to testing around the US. It will also distribute free home tests, which will be available to order starting next Wednesday.

Here's what you need to know about getting free home tests from retailers:

How does this work?


Most Americans with private insurance can buy home tests online or in stores and have them paid for at the time of purchase or get reimbursed by submitting a claim to their insurer. So make sure you save your receipts.

The tests won't be subject to copays or deductibles.

Insurers may set up a network of preferred stores, pharmacies and online retailers where consumers can receive tests at no cost up front. People could still buy tests outside that network, but insurers would only have to reimburse up to $12 for each one.

Consumers should contact their insurers to find out if they provide direct coverage or if claims must be submitted.

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Do I need a doctor's order or prescription?


No, you will not need to visit a doctor to get the free tests.

How many tests can I get?


Insurers must pay for up to eight tests per covered individual per month. So a family of four could get 32 tests each month, for instance.

What about all the tests I bought before Saturday? Can I get reimbursed for them?



Sorry, but only tests bought starting January 15 qualify.

Where can I find a home test?


Finding home tests is proving challenging in many parts of the country, even as retailers limit the number that can be purchased by one customer.

It's one reason why the Biden administration plans to distribute free home tests soon. President Joe Biden on Thursday announced he was doubling the number that will be available to 1 billion.

Several states have also ordered home tests to be distributed free to residents, but supplies have been limited.

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How do I get one of those free federal tests?


Americans can go to a new website, covidtests.gov, to order the tests, starting January 19. Tests are expected to ship within seven to 12 days of being ordered.

Initially, there will be a limit of four tests per residential household.

The White House will also set up a hotline for those who cannot order online but has not yet announced a launch date for it.

What if I'm on Medicare?


Medicare covers at no charge COVID-19 testing done in a lab when ordered by a medical professional.

Those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans should check with their insurers to see if the costs of the home tests will be covered.

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What if I'm on Medicaid?


Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, already cover home tests with no cost-sharing.

But enrollees should contact their state agencies for specific coverage details.

What if I'm uninsured?


The uninsured can get free home tests from certain community health centers. They can also request tests through the federal program once it becomes available.

Also, the Department of Health and Human Services is providing up to 50 million free home tests to community health centers and Medicare-certified health clinics for distribution to patients and the community.

HHS also has established more than 10,000 free community-based pharmacy testing sites around the country.

Additional information about testing for the uninsured is available on hhs.gov.

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