About two and a half years into the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. cases are dramatically lower than January highs. Still, some areas are seeing surges, like San Francisco — which managed to ebb below national averages until soaring well above them recently. Free COVID-19 tests are still very much needed, and you can get them.
Here are your options for scoring a free COVID-19 test in the U.S., whether you choose to take a rapid at-home antigen test or a more accurate PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test.
Insured and uninsured people can still get free COVID-19 tests in the U.S.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “COVID-19 tests are available to everyone in the U.S., including the uninsured.”
Many of these tests are free, though individuals with certain health plans may have to pay a low cost to get them or be reimbursed after paying themselves.
Local, independent pharmacies as well as large pharmacies like CVS Health, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart all have COVID-19 testing. Your area may also have health centers that perform COVID-19 testing for free. Visit the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) website to find COVID-19 testing at a health center near you.
How to find out if your health plan provides direct coverage or reimbursement for COVID-19 tests
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says, “The Biden-Harris Administration is strongly incentivizing health plans and insurers to set up a network of convenient locations across the country such as pharmacies or retailers where people with private health coverage will be able to order online or walk in and pick up at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests for free, rather than going through the process of having to submit claims for reimbursement.”
To find out if your health insurance covers free tests or requires reimbursement, contact customer support. If you're charged, keep the receipt and submit it as a reimbursement claim. This includes both PCR tests you may take at a health center or pharmacy as well as rapid tests you purchase over the counter. HHS says, “Insurance companies and health plans are required to cover [eight] free over-the-counter at-home tests per covered individual per month.”
USPS is offering more at-home COVID-19 tests — how to get yours.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is offering another round of at-home COVID-19 test delivery, this time with eight rapid antigen COVID-19 tests (versus the previous two deliveries of four tests each).
Note that your USPS COVID-19 test order will ship in two boxes with four tests each. These packages ship free, so you don’t have to worry about paying money for postage. Also, the USPS doesn’t even require you to input your health insurance information, which makes the process quick and easy.
While rapid tests are considered to be less accurate than PCR tests, it’s still a great idea to keep a stash in your household for when you need it.