February 4, 2022
Medicare will cover the cost of rapid tests on COVID-19 without a prescription starting in “early spring”, according to announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Thursday.
People enrolled in Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage will be able to take as many as eight tests a month for free through “eligible pharmacies and other participating entities”. The rules will apply to tests on COVID-19 without a prescription approved or approved by the FDA.
“This is the first time that Medicare has covered over-the-counter testing at no cost to users,” the announcement said.
The new policy will allow Medicare to pay directly to participating pharmacies and healthcare providers, rather than claiming compensation.
“There are a number of problems that have made it difficult to cover and pay for tests on COVID-19 without a prescription,” the announcement reads. “However, given the importance of expanding access to testing, CMS has identified a pathway that will expand access to free non-prescription testing for Medicare users.”
The announcement comes after weeks of criticism from lawmakers and health experts, who have called on Medicare recipients to get coverage for testing, according to to New York Times. In a recent effort by the Biden administration to require private insurers to cover tests at home, 64 million Medicare users were not included.
“An expanded approach to cost-free testing will help protect the elderly most severely affected by the pandemic and ensure they stay connected to their loved ones and the community,” said Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president for AARP. in a statement after the publication of the CMS.
“Every American should have an easy way to get COVID tests at home,” she said. “We know that people over the age of 65 are at a much higher risk of serious illness and death from this disease – they need equal access to tools that can help protect them.”
The Biden administration has not said how many pharmacies or health workers will be involved or when the new policy will be passed in “early spring”.
Until then, according to the CMS announcement, people with Medicare can access free tests through several options:
- Request four free tests without a prescription for home delivery covidtests.gov.
- Access COVID-19 tests through healthcare facilities at more than 20,000 free testing sites nationwide. AND page list is available on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.
- Get free lab PCR and antigen tests done by a lab when the test is ordered by a doctor, non-physician, pharmacist, or other authorized healthcare professional.
The CMS also created a Frequently Asked Questions a page on the new policy, which includes telephone numbers for people with hearing impairments and those who need help in another language.