Your COVID Testing Costs May Be Going Up
The end of the Public Health Emergency may mean you’re losing coverage, but you’ll still have some options.
The COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) will finally come to an end on May 11, 2023. Put in place early in 2020 and renewed every 90 days since, this declaration gave the federal government flexibility to better respond to the pandemic. It also allowed them to require that insurance companies cover the costs of COVID testing and treatments.
Now that the PHE is ending, what does that mean for your access to COVID testing? The answer depends largely on what type of insurance you have.
Private health insurance, such as through an employer
Since January 2022, most people with private insurance have been able to receive up to eight rapid tests per beneficiary per month, paid for by their insurer. I hope you’ve been taking advantage of this benefit! Because after May 11, it’ll be up to your insurance company to decide whether they will continue to pay for these tests. So stock up on them before you find yourself on the hook.
If you have to get a PCR test, or your doctor orders either a PCR or rapid test for you, you’ll still have plenty of options as far as where to get tested. However, you may now be responsible for a copay or co-insurance charge for the test itself.
Starting last spring, people with traditional Medicare benefits (i.e., Parts A and B) have also been able to receive up to eight rapid tests per month at no cost to them. Unfortunately, this benefit will also likely expire in May. After that, those on Medicare will have to pay for the tests themselves. Medicare Advantage plans might choose to cover the costs, but there are no guarantees.
The story could be a little different for tests ordered by a doctor. Traditional Medicare should cover the cost of the tests themselves, but the visit with the doctor might require a copay. Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will be in the same boat as those with private health insurance — it’ll be up to their insurance companies!
When it comes to COVID test coverage, Medicaid beneficiaries are more fortunate than their counterparts with Medicare or private health insurance. Due to a provision in the American Rescue Plan, they’ll continue to receive coverage for rapid tests through September 2024. After that though, individual states may choose to end coverage or impose some cost-sharing.
If you’re uninsured, or if paying the up-front cost or copay for tests is a financial challenge, you’ll still have some options. The federal government is offering four free rapid tests per household until supplies run out. The Rockefeller Foundation’s Project ACT is continuing to offer free rapid tests to people in certain zip codes. You may be able to get free rapid tests through your local health department. And you can still use the CDC’s No Cost COVID-19 Testing locator to find free testing sites near you.
While insurance coverage for COVID tests may change for us with the end of the public health emergency, the good news is that there should still be plenty of tests available. They just may cost you more out of pocket. Just like the virus itself, COVID testing is here to stay.