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How to get free at-home COVID-19 tests through new federal program

At home covid test
Posted at 11:19 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 00:19:13-05

The White House launched a new website on Tuesday which allows people to order a set of four free at-home COVID-19 tests, which will be shipped as soon as the end of January.

The website, COVIDTests.gov, requires people to simply input contact and shipping information and the kit can be requested. The program is currently limited to four tests per household.

No insurance is required to take advantage of the program and the tests are set to ship within 7 to 12 days via USPS once the order is placed.

This comes as at-home tests are sold out at stores across the country.

While the rapid, at-home tests are convenient, they may not be as accurate as the traditional PCR tests, which are run through a lab.

Dr. Tresa McNeal, hospitalist physician at Baylor Scott and White, recommends using the rapid tests with symptoms instead of in cases of asymptomatic exposure.

"If you're having symptoms of fever, sore throat, cough, that test is more reliable if its positive or negative than if you're not having any symptoms," she said.

At-home tests also cause some problems with COVID-19 data collection, as they are often not reported to health officials.

"We've always run on the assumption that there's a lot more infections in the community than the actual numbers that we report, either from not getting tested or using at home tests," said Stephanie Alvey, assistant director of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.

Regardless, health officials hope the tests are able to help slow the COVID-19 spread in the community.

If you need more than four tests, as of January 15, insurers are required to cover or reimburse up to $12 per FDA-approved at-home COVID-19 test, up to eight tests per month.

Insurance can be used to cover the cost directly at most pharmacy counters, depending on insurance company, or a reimbursement request can be submitted directly to insurers for purchases on or after January 15.

If you need immediate testing, you can also find options at 211Texas.org.