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Medicare to Cover Over-the-Counter COVID-19 Tests for Millions of Older Adults

Today’s announcement is a first for the federal health care program

April 04, 2022

Nearly 60 million seniors with Medicare coverage can now receive up to eight free COVID-19 home tests from pharmacies and other providers starting this month, the Biden administration announced today.

This is the first time in Medicare’s history that the program will cover an over-the-counter, self-administered test at no cost to beneficiaries, officials said. The administration said 59 million Americans with Medicare Part B—including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan—now have access to U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved, authorized, or cleared over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at no cost.

“This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests free of charge,” U.S Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) initiative:

  • Who’s eligible?:  Starting this month, each person with Medicare Part B can get up to eight free monthly over-the-counter tests from participating providers
  • How it works:  Medicare will pay participating providers directly. A list of providers that have committed to participate can be found here
  • Provider types:  Health care providers offering ambulatory health care services (vaccines, lab tests or other clinic type visits, etc.) to people with Medicare are eligible to participate
  • Additional tests:  Americans also are eligible to order free COVID-19 tests from the federal website. Every U.S. household is eligible to order two sets of four at-home COVID-19 tests
  • Quotable:  “For the first time in its history, Medicare is paying for an over-the-counter test,” said Deputy Administrator Dr. Meena Seshamani, director, Center for Medicare at CMS. “This is because COVID-19 testing is a critical part of our pandemic response.”

CMS officials recommend Medicare beneficiaries contact their pharmacy or health care provider to find out whether they are participating in the program. The tests will be available for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, officials said.

Additional information about today’s announcement is available online. A fact sheet with details also is available.

Pharmacies and other health care providers interested in participating in this initiative can get more information online.