Questions arise as Biden administration covers Covid testing costs

Photo courtesy of Jernej Furman, Flickr.

Access to COVID-19 tests has proven to be difficult to find in recent times. With cases rising at a steady rate, long lines and hours of waiting at testing centers are a common sight. Almost two full years after the coronavirus pandemic began, at-home Covid tests are becoming a more accessible method for individuals to find out if they have contracted COVID-19.

The Biden-Harris administration recently required insurance companies to provide at-home tests accessible across the country. As of Jan. 15, healthcare providers – like Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna – are now mandated to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 test kits by reimbursing individuals. This is rapidly increasing the amount of free tests available while decreasing the financial burden.

“We recognize that the administration’s guidance takes steps to mitigate the real risks of price gouging, fraud, and abuse, which would limit access and reduce affordability for everyone,” America's Health Insurance Plans CEO Matthew Eyles said in a statement.

Tests can also be retrieved online through the federal website. However, at-home COVID-19 test kits are difficult to seek amongst certain populations, especially for some apartment residents.

The online system for ordering does not recognize different apartment numbers as an address different from the complex building, causing a number of test-seeking users to find an error message instead. Households, on the other hand, are allowed to order up to four test kits. 

The United States Postal Service addressed this concern in a statement released on Jan. 19.

“The Postal Service is seeing very limited cases of addresses that are not registered as multi-unit buildings which could lead to COVID test kit ordering difficulties. This is occurring in a small percentage of orders,” the statement said.

More recent concerns have been raised surrounding the availability of tests for those who do not have Internet access, affecting rural communities. A phone number is anticipated to be released for requesting Covid kits, but it is uncertain when that will come.

Currently available at community health centers as well as clinics such as CVS, Walgreens and CityMD, at-home COVID-19 antigen tests typically come in a box. The common contents of the box include two tests that provide digitally-read results in about ten to fifteen minutes. Some kits may also require you to download an app to view the results.

Ramapo College has hopped onto the bandwagon as well. In addition to providing students with COVID-19 testing at Overlook Hall, the bookstore is now selling COVID-19 home test kits while supplies last. Available for sale at one per person, all a student needs to purchase the kit is a Ramapo ID. The kit comes in a two-pack and is sold for $16.99.