The short answer is yes, the federal government mandated that all Americans have access to free COVID-19 testing. However, many people still have medical bills associated with their testing. Sometimes these are related to Emergency Rooms fees when their tests were performed, others who need to fight for COVID test reimbursement by insurance providers to get the cost covered.
Let’s answer the question “Where can I get COVID testing for free near me?” According to the CDC, there are several options.
The federal government rolled out a program in January 2022 where American households could order 4 free COVID-19 tests as an additional tool to manage the spread of this disease. It was just announced March 2, 2022 that an additional 4 tests will be available for ordering beginning the following week. These are available to order at COVIDtests.gov.
Although it was the CDC who authorized free testing to be available to all Americans as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (passed on March 18, 2020), reimbursements for testing do not come directly from them. Most major insurance plans are now required to pay for COVID-19 testing, so if yours isn’t covering a test, it is worth following up with them to find out why. This could be a billing issue with insurance and they will reimburse you if it is corrected. If you do not have insurance or your insurance is one that does not cover your COVID-19 test, you need to talk to any healthcare provider in your area to see if they are set up to bill the federal government for testing or other COVID-19 related care.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is a federal institution that reimburses Health Care Providers and facilities for COVID-19 related testing, vaccination and treatment to cover uninsured individuals. There are additional funds available through another program called the HRSA COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund that provides reimbursement for underinsured individuals whose insurance does not cover all related costs. These funds are provided through healthcare facilities, so contact your local healthcare provider to see if they are working with the HRSA.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of if and where you can get a free COVID-19 test, let’s review the different types of tests that are available and how they are covered differently. The two main categories of COVID-19 tests are the rapid antigen test (most at home tests) and the PCR test. The free tests that can be ordered from COVIDtests.gov and delivered for you to do at home and get instant results are the rapid antigen tests.
These tests look for large amounts of COVID-19 virus on a swab and are generally accurate for determining if someone has COVID-19 very quickly. These at-home rapid antigen tests do have some drawbacks, though. They are less sensitive than the PCR test because they cannot detect smaller amounts of the virus, and they have a wider margin of user error possible.
Some of the free tests available from testing sites and at healthcare facilities are these same rapid antigen tests. Others are the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests that amplify traces of COVID-19 virus and are able to detect it in smaller amounts more accurately. For this reason, PCR tests are considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing.
Although these PCR tests need to be completed in a lab, testing kits to be able to get samples for them are available to be run at home in many cases. The main drawback of PCR tests is the longer wait time compared to rapid tests, and results of PCR tests can generally be expected in 24 to 48 hours.
Government programs and private insurance cover both types of these testing categories to make sure everyone can receive accurate information about their health and help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Do not let financial worry stand in the way of getting the COVID-19 testing you need. Accurate testing is important for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Understanding all your testing options before you need them can make decision-making after an exposure or during symptoms much easier for everyone. BioCollections works with individuals and employers to get the gold standard of PCR testing to those who need it quickly and conveniently. Click here to contact us with any questions about COVID-19 testing in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Puerto Rico.