If it isn’t free, then it’s more expensive, right? That will be the price increase facing anyone who’s come to appreciate – or rely on – free home COVID-19 tests courtesy of the U.S. government.
This program, which debuted in January 2022, is being suspended Friday, Sept. 2 – that’s the last day you’ll be able to order free test kits. The Biden administration, for which this was a signature program, is laying the blame on Congress, as part of a standoff about additional COVID-19 funding.
Right at the top of the program’s page is a banner noting the suspension is “because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests.” But if you scroll right past that, you can still collect up to a total of 24 free COVID-19 tests if you get your order in before the end of Sept. 2. Exactly how many additional tests each household can get now depends on how many have been ordered to each address since distribution began.
Currently, the program, managed through the United States Postal Service, is mailing eight tests per order. Each postal address is eligible for three orders. So, if you’ve never used the program before, a maximum of 24 is available. If you took advantage of the first two offers, you were only sent four at a time; there’s no ‘catch-up’ opportunity now to get more than eight additional tests.
At-home antigen tests cost about $12 each at the drugstore, but a variety of ways to get them for free will remain: Insurers are required to provide reimbursement for eight tests per month for each covered individual, and encouraged to allow individuals to obtain them for free at pharmacies or other points of sale by showing an insurance card. But insurers are not obligated to do this and may require you to pay up front for a test and then seek reimbursement. Public health clinics and other facilities offer free testing to the uninsured, as well.
Over 600 million tests have been distributed through the program so far, the White House noted.