Remember when the US government offered four free COVID-19 tests per household? While this step was helpful, it was only one piece of the puzzle. Starting this week, Medicare enrollees (ie. anyone over 65 years old with Medicare health insurance) can order up to eight free COVID-19 home tests per month from pharmacies across the country.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made the announcement in February, but the initiative didn’t begin until April 4.
“This is the first time in the history of the Medicare program that we are paying for an over-the-counter service or test,” said Dr. Meena Seshamani, a CMS deputy administrator, in a press release. “It really speaks to how important it is that we increase access during this pandemic for these over-the-counter tests.”
Which pharmacies are offering free COVID-19 tests?
The pharmacies working with the government to distribute free COVID-19 tests to Medicare enrollees include:
- Food Lion
- Giant Food
- The Giant Company
- H-E-B Pharmacy
- Kroger Family
- Rite Aid
- Shop & Stop
Note: Other pharmacies may offer free, in-person testing, but they may not necessarily participate in this program with Medicare.
How can I get free tests from one of these pharmacies?
In order to pick up eight free tests, visit one of these participating pharmacies and present your Medicare insurance card. (The pharmacy will then bill Medicare. Medicare will reimburse pharmacies up to $12 for each COVID test, or $24 for a two-test kit).
How can I get free COVID-19 tests if I don’t have Medicare?
If you are under 65 and don’t have Medicare, you can order free at-home COVID-19 testing kits from your insurance company. The Biden Administration has required private health insurance companies to cover at-home kits for free since January 15 of this year.
Your insurance may allow you to pick up free tests from a pharmacy by simply presenting your health insurance card. Or you may be required to pay up front and get reimbursed later (keep that receipt!), depending on your insurer’s policy. Call your insurance provider to learn the details.
Also, you can now get an additional four free tests (delivered to your home) by following the instructions at covid.gov/tests or calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489). If you have yet to order your first round, you can still do so.