If you have Medicare, you can now receive up to eight free rapid at-home Covid-19 tests a month at participating pharmacies.
The free tests are available without a prescription to all Medicare beneficiaries with Part B, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. If you only have Medicare Part A, Medicare won’t cover the cost. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries are eligible to receive Medicare two years after they are deemed eligible for SSDI benefits. Nearly nine million Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 are SSDI beneficiaries.
To get the tests, you can visit one of the pharmacies participating in the program (for a partial list of participating pharmacies, click here). You do not have to be a current customer of the pharmacy in order to receive the tests, and Medicare Advantage plan enrollees may use an out-of-network pharmacy. You should bring your red, white, and blue Medicare card (even if you have a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan), but the pharmacy may be able to get the information it needs to bill Medicare without the card.
Unlike with private insurance, there is no upfront cost for the tests. As long as you do not order more than eight tests in a calendar month, you will not pay anything. Note that tests are often packaged with two in each box, so eight tests may not mean eight boxes. If you pay for a test yourself, Medicare will not reimburse you. Medicare enrollees who order tests from covidtests.gov do not need to count those tests against Medicare's eight-test-per-month limit.
When the Biden administration originally announced it was requiring private insurers to reimburse the cost of up to eight rapid at-home Covid tests a month purchased at retail stores and pharmacies, this news left out the nation’s 62 million Medicare beneficiaries – seniors and people with disabilities who are at the highest risk of death from Covid-19. If paid for out-of-pocket, tests typically cost more than $20 for a package of two, which can discourage many Americans from getting tested.
The problem in the case of tests for Medicare beneficiaries was that the federal program’s rules did not permit coverage of over-the-counter tests. Amid pressure from Congress and advocacy groups, officials scrambled to find a regulatory workaround.
For more information about the free COVID tests from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, click here.