Testing for COVID-19 frequently is the only way to find if that runny nose or cough is a cold or something more serious. At-home tests aren't cheap. For most brands, one box with two tests inside is about $24. But, paying for at-home tests doesn't have to be an added stress.
As announced by the Biden Administration, private insurance companies are required to cover the cost of eight at-home tests per individual per month. Are consumers taking advantage of that coverage?
We posed that question to our TMJ4 Twitter followers. Out of 122 who responded to our poll, 15.6% said "YES", while 84.4% percent responded "NO."
Since January 15, insurance companies and group health plans have been required to cover the cost of 8 at-home COVID-19 tests per person per month. Have you taken advantage of this?— TMJ4 News (@tmj4) February 8, 2022
"The feedback I've received is that a lot of people don't want to mess around with the reimbursement," said Sadie Tuescher with Wisconsin Health Insurance Advocate, LLC.
Tuescher says private insurers were scrambling at first to follow the federal mandate and cover the cost of at-home tests. So, many announced members needed to keep receipts and send them in for reimbursement.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in late January, about half of the 13 private insurers it reviewed had a direct coverage option, meaning you can go to a pharmacy partnering with your health insurance company, show your insurance card and get your COVID-19 tests for free that way.
If you're concerned that insurance companies will eventually pass along the costs to you at some point, Tuescher doesn't suspect any major changes.
"I would suspect we're not going to see a big impact from this. The reimbursement is only $12 per test and it's 8 tests per month, and as we add it up as consumers that seems like a decent deal of money. But insurance companies are working in the billions of dollars and the main cost in insurance is unchecked hospital prices of significantly bigger numbers. So, I think we'll see a tiny impact, but I don't think we'll see a big impact."
TMJ4 contacted UnitedHealth Care, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin, and Humana asking for comment on this story. A spokesperson for Anthem BCBS provided a link explaining its coverage policy.
As insurers respond, we will be updating this article.
You don't have to have health insurance to receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests. You can do that by visiting https://www.covidtests.gov/.