Americans with Medicare Part B, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, will now have access to over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at no cost, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Medicare recipients are eligible to receive up to eight free tests per calendar month from participating pharmacies and healthcare providers, a list of which can be found here.
"Since we took office, we have more than tripled the number of sites where people can get COVID-19 tests for free, and we’re also delivering close to 250 million at-home, rapid tests to send for free to Americans who need them. Under the Biden-Harris Administration’s leadership, we required state Medicaid programs, insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans," said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Monday.
With today’s step, we are further expanding health insurance coverage of free over-the-counter tests to Medicare beneficiaries, including our nation’s elderly and people with disabilities," Becerra added.
This will be the first time Medicare covers over-the-counter and self-administered tests to beneficiaries and the policy will apply to tests approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to a news release about the announcement.
A pharmacist hands a woman a free COVID-19 home test that is covered by Medicare at a CVS in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
National pharmacy chains that are participating in this initiative include: Albertsons Companies, Inc., Costco Pharmacy, CVS, Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Pharmacies, H-E-B Pharmacy, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Kroger Family of Pharmacies, Rite Aid Corp., Shop & Stop, Walgreens and Walmart.
"Testing remains a critical tool in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and we are committed to making sure people with Medicare have the tools they need to stay safe and healthy," said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. "By launching this initiative, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to demonstrate that we are doing everything possible to make over-the-counter COVID-19 testing free and accessible for millions more Americans."
Meanwhile, the BA.2 omicron variant now accounts for more than half of United States cases, having rapidly overtaken the original strain. That initial omicron wave this winter caused the biggest spike yet in virus cases, straining many hospitals to the limit. Since then, cases nationally have rapidly dropped to the lowest level since before last summer's delta surge. Coronavirus restrictions have been largely lifted. But some areas where BA.2 took hold early are seeing increasing cases.
Monday's announcement followed another precautionary move last week, when government health officials authorized a second round of booster shots for people 50 and older as well as those with weakened immune systems.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported out of Los Angeles.