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Free At-Home COVID Tests Only Available Until May 11

End of public health emergency means over-the-counter tests will cost you


spinner image a box of Ellume at-home coronavirus tests on a store shelf
Tom Williams / Getty Images

Whether you are on Medicare, have private health insurance or are uninsured, your ability to get free at-home kits to test for COVID-19 will end after May 11, when the coronavirus public health emergency expires. 

Testing for COVID-19 is especially important for older adults, who are at higher risk for a severe case of the virus. If you find out you’re positive, you could then be eligible for antiviral medications that can help keep a mild infection from turning into something more serious.

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You have until Thursday, May 11, to stock up on free tests. Private insurers are supposed to pay for up to eight tests per person insured per month, but be sure to check with your pharmacy to see if your policy does cover those tests and how. 

If you are on Medicare and have original Medicare Part B, which covers doctor visits and other outpatient services, or if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you have been able to get eight at-home tests free each month. The availability of those free tests also ends with the expiration of the public health emergency. While Medicare typically does not cover over-the-counter products, some Medicare Advantage plans do, and they may continue to cover at-home testing after May 11. Check with your plan to find out.

One exception to the May 11 deadline for free test kits is for people with Medicaid. If you have Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income Americans, you will still be able to get free at-home tests through September 2024.

If you have not yet ordered your two rounds of free at-home tests from the federal government, the website — covid.gov/tests — will continue to take orders for at-home tests until the end the May. Each household is eligible to have four at-home kits, each of which contains two tests, mailed to your home. If you don’t have health insurance, you are eligible for these government-provided free tests, and you may still be able to get free tests at some community health centers and clinics.

When you need to start buying tests, check around for how much it will cost. Typically, the price of one at-home test is about $10, and a box of two tests runs between $20 and $24.

Treatments, vaccines still free

If you test positive for COVID-19 after the health emergency ends, you’ll still be able to get treatments, such as Paxlovid, for free as long as the federal government’s supply lasts. After that, how much you’ll have to pay for Paxlovid and other antivirals will depend on what type of health insurance coverage you have.

COVID-19 vaccines will also continue to be free. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said that Americans age 65 and older and people whose immune systems are compromised can get a second dose of the latest bivalent vaccine, designed to guard against the latest coronavirus variant, omicron.

Video: Will COVID Care Cost Me More Now?

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