The Biden administration is buying 1 billion rapid COVID-19 test kits to give Americans for free. Here's how to get one.

·3-min read
A resident displays an at-home rapid COVID-19 test kit in Philadelphia, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021
A resident displaying an at-home, rapid COVID-19 test kit in Philadelphia on December 20.Matt Rourke/AP Photo
  • The Biden administration is buying 1 billion at-home COVID-19 test kits to give Americans for free.

  • The US Postal Service on Tuesday launched a website, in beta form, where people can order the tests.

  • Starting on January 15, the administration now requires that insurers reimburse rapid test kits.

The Biden administration is purchasing 1 billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to distribute to Americans at no cost in response to a rise in cases spurred in part by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The US Postal Service, which is distributing the tests, launched its website on Tuesday in a beta testing phase. While the site is operating at a limited capacity ahead of a full launch on Wednesday, orders are being accepted.

The official White House website where Americans can order tests, covidtests.gov, is set to go fully live on January 19.

Here's what we know about how and when Americans can get a free test kit.

When can I get a free test?

Americans can order tests at no cost from the US Postal Service starting on Tuesday and at covidtests.gov starting on January 19. Test kits are expected to ship in seven to 12 days, the White House said.

Orders placed on the US Postal Service website on Tuesday said the tests would begin to ship "in late January."

Eight different brands of at-home, rapid COVID tests are authorized for use by the Food and Drug Administration. The White House has officially reached a deal with the US Postal Service to distribute the 500 million tests, and it plans to order an additional 500 million tests on top of its initial order.

Will the government automatically send free rapid test kits to all American households?

No. Americans who want free tests need to order them. The free test kits are limited to four per address, the White House said, with high-risk communities and those hardest hit by the Omicron variant prioritized for access to tests.

Is my state or city giving out free COVID test kits?

Depending on where you live, yes!

Major cities, such as New York City; Washington, DC; and Philadelphia, and states — including Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Washington, Iowa, Ohio, Maryland, and Colorado — are offering free COVID-19 test kits to some or all residents, NPR reported.

Can I get the cost of a COVID-19 rapid test reimbursed by my insurance in the meantime?

Yes.

The Biden administration announced in early December that it would also issue a mandate requiring private insurers to fully reimburse the cost of up to eight rapid, at-home COVID-19 test kits purchased over the counter per month. The reimbursement requirement officially went into effect on January 15.

But the reimbursement mandate won't be retroactive for past purchases, which means the millions of Americans who bought rapid test kits in preparation for the holidays have to shoulder those costs out of pocket.

Vermont has a state-level mandate that requires all insurers who operate in the state to reimburse all over-the-counter tests.

But while most major private insurers cover the costs of COVID-19 tests conducted in a medical setting or at a test site, many insurers will only reimburse over-the-counter COVID test kits that were ordered by a doctor.

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