According to an April 4 press release, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that more than 59 million Americans with Medicare Part B, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, have access to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at no cost. People with Medicare can get up to eight tests per month from participating pharmacies and healthcare providers for the remainder of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The release states that “This is the first time that Medicare has covered an over-the-counter self-administered test at no cost to beneficiaries. This new initiative enables payment from Medicare directly to participating eligible pharmacies and other healthcare providers to allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive tests at no cost, in addition to the two sets of four free at-home COVID-19 tests Americans can continue to order from covidtests.gov. National pharmacy chains are participating in this initiative, including: Albertsons Companies, Inc., Costco Pharmacy, CVS, Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Pharmacies, H-E-B Pharmacy, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Kroger Family of Pharmacies, Rite Aid Corp., Shop & Stop, Walgreens and Walmart.”
The release says that providers and suppliers authorized to participate include certain types of pharmacies and healthcare providers who are enrolled in Medicare and able to provide ambulatory healthcare services like preventative vaccines, COVID-19 testing, and regular medical visits. Medicare is not requiring participating eligible pharmacies and providers to go through new enrollment processes.
Further, “This initiative adds to existing options for people with Medicare to access COVID-19 testing, including:
- Requesting free over-the-counter tests for home delivery at covidtests.gov. Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order two sets of four at-home COVID-19 tests.
- Access to no-cost COVID-19 tests through health care providers at over 20,000 testing sites nationwide. A list of community-based testing sites can be found here.
- Access to lab-based PCR tests and antigen tests performed by a laboratory when the test is ordered by a physician, non-physician practitioner, pharmacist, or other authorized health care professional at no cost through Medicare.
- In addition to accessing a COVID-19 laboratory test ordered by a health care professional, people with Medicare can also access one lab-performed test without an order and cost-sharing during the public health emergency.”
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure was quoted in the release saying that “Testing remains a critical tool in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and we are committed to making sure people with Medicare have the tools they need to stay safe and healthy. By launching this initiative, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to demonstrate that we are doing everything possible to make over-the-counter COVID-19 testing free and accessible for millions more Americans.”
On March 28, we reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra presented the President’s budget for FY2023 at a press conference where he said that the Provider Relief Fund is no longer accepting new claims for COVID-related testing and treatment services. Beginning April 5, that fund will not accept any new claims for vaccination services as well.