What You Need to Know
- WHO says information on the clinical severity of the omicron variant is limited.
- COVID-19 hospitalization rates continue to rise in the places hit by the omicron variant first.
- The Biden administration will be trying to promote testing by distributing 500 million rapid home test kits through the web.
The federal government will soon begin distributing 500 million rapid home COVID-19 test kits through the web — and private health insurance may pay for many of those kits.
President Joe Biden talked briefly about insurance coverage for home test kits Tuesday, during remarks he made at the White House about administration efforts to control the COVID-19 omicron variant.
Private health insurance already covers the relatively expensive COVID-19 tests based on polymerase chain reaction technology. Those tests, which are typically given in hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics, detect bits of the genes of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Starting next month, private insurance will also cover at-home testing, so you can order a test online and get reimbursed,” Biden said. “We’re providing access to free at-home tests for those who may not have insurance as well.”
Manufacturers will start delivering the 500 million test kits in January, and the test kit distribution team is developing the program guidelines and the distribution website now, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing before Biden’s remarks.
Other administration officials said at a background briefing Monday that they expect private health insurers to reimburse enrollees for the cost of at-home test kits and that they hope the $500 million federal test kit distribution effort will supplement test kit purchases made with private coverage.
The kit distribution team is still deciding how many test kits each household can order and other program details, officials said.
Officials said they expect to deliver the at-home test kits through email, as well as continuing to help support about 20,000 testing sites.
Similar rapid home COVID-19 tests typically sell for less than $5 at shops in Europe.