For the first time, Medicare is now covering the costs for over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests.
The Biden administration on Monday announced that those enrolled in Medicare can obtain up to eight tests per month at participating pharmacies. Some of those pharmacies include Walmart, Walgreens and CVS. A complete list is available here.
The tests will be available until the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.
If you have Medicare B the tests will be covered. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan you can still get the tests but will need to show your red, white and blue Medicare card at a participating pharmacy.
You won’t qualify for the free tests if you only have Medicare Part A, which is hospital insurance, but you may be able to obtain tests through other programs or insurance you carry.
If you need more than eight tests per month, you will be required to cover the costs for each test over eight. Your health care provider or pharmacy will charge you. There may be more than one test per box, so eight tests may come in fewer than eight boxes.
Medicare has lagged private insurance in following the Biden administration's directive to cover at-home tests because rules and regulations stood in the way, and officials had to find a work-around. This is the first time the health insurance program for older people and those with disabilities has covered an over-the-counter test at no cost to recipients.
Medicare's move could turn out to be prescient.
The BA.2 omicron variant now accounts for more than half of U.S. 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.