The cost of rapid at-home tests for COVID-19 will be covered by insurance starting Saturday, but that won’t make them easy to find.
Highly sought-after testing kits are scarce at pharmacies and drugstores across the country amid a record-setting national surge in coronavirus cases. On Monday, the White House said private insurers would cover the cost of rapid at-home antigen tests as part of a push to make testing easier and more accessible.
But insurance companies say that the problem has not been resolved. Kim Keck, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield, said: “We are concerned that the policy does not address the limited supply of tests in the country and could create additional consumer friction as insurers put in place a schedule in only four days’ time.” ” said in a statement,
“We will continue to partner with the administration and retailers to help make this work,” the statement said.
Demand has far outstripped supply since last month, when the highly infectious Omicron variant was spreading rapidly and public health officials recommended testing before in-person gatherings over the holidays. A lack of tests, such as the two-test Binex Now kit made by Abbott Laboratories (ticker: ABT), leads to hours of waits at testing sites in many cities.
Retailers including Amazon.com (AMZN), Walmart (WMT), CVS Health (CVS) and Walgreens (WBA) began limiting per capita purchases of over-the-counter tests in December due to short supply.
Under the policy unveiled on Monday, lakhs of people with private health insurance will be able to get reimbursed for up to eight tests One month for each person covered, or buy them directly through their insurance. The plan asks consumers to be able to get the test without paying deductibles or copayments. Only tests purchased on or after January 15 will be reimbursed.
“This is part of our overall strategy, which includes easy-to-use, at-home testing at no cost,” Health and Human Services Secretary Javier Becerra said in a statement.
The administration wants insurers and group health plans to work with specific retailers and pharmacies to allow people to get tested directly without submitting a claim for reimbursement. Those who do will only need to be reimbursed up to $12 per trial for those purchased from an out-of-network retailer.
Insurance industry groups said the policies would not be easy to adopt. “Health insurance providers will work as quickly as possible to implement this guidance in a way that limits consumer confusion and challenges,” said Matt Ailes, president of Health Insurance Plans of America. in a statement,
“Some problems may be faced in the initial days, but we will work closely with the administration so that if the problem arises, it can be resolved quickly,” he said.
The Biden administration still hasn’t announced details of a plan to begin mailing 500 million tests to Americans. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said“We expect to have details on the website as well as a hotline later this week.”
Jeffrey Ziants, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said last week that these tests would be in addition to those sold in retailers and pharmacies, made possible by the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has authorized more rapid tests and that manufacturers Production has accelerated.
The tests the US government will mail will “not obstruct or in any way cannibalize tests that are on pharmacy shelves and websites and used in other settings,” he said. said,
Another factor that contributes to test kits’ scarcity is their shelf life of six to nine months. Consumers who have managed to find tests want to save them in case they need to, “but you can’t do that if the expiration date is three months out,” said former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said during Baron’s Round Table Meeting show on fox business in the weekends.
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