It’s time to stock up on free at-home COVID tests, and here’s why.
On Thursday, May 11, the Biden-Harris administration will officially end the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency. Once this designation is lifted, many temporary measures put into place to make COVID testing more accessible will cease. As TIME reported, that includes the mandate for Medicare and private health insurance companies to cover at-home COVID tests.
Depending on your insurer’s policy, you may still be able to get COVID tests free of charge. But for many Americans, these at-home tests will soon cost about $10 a pop, or $20 for a pack of test.
After May 11, many insurers will no longer cover rapid or PCR COVID tests either.
Here’s everything you need to know about the policy changes coming later this week — and why COVID testing still matters.
COVID testing still matters, so grab free at-home tests while you can.
Although the government is ending the public health emergency, COVID-19 still exists and poses a serious threat to certain high-risk populations. At-home COVID tests make it easy to know your status, which is a vital for keeping yourself and your community safe.
If you’d like to stock up on free tests before May 11, head to your local pharmacy and inquire about getting at-home COVID tests through your insurer. It’s worth at least exploring your options while these tests are still free.
Depending on your state, you may be able to obtain free tests through your insurer after this week. For instance, in California, lawmakers voted to extend access to free tests statewide until November 11, 2023.
TL;DR, get familiar with your insurance company’s COVID test policies and your state and local laws. You can research both online.
There’s a new COVID variant in town too.
In case you need another push to snag free tests this week, there is a new COVID variant in town: XBB.1.16, a subvariant of the uber-contagious Omicron strain. Some experts believe we could see a surge in cases from XBB.1.16, which is also highly contagious.
This variant doesn’t appear to be causing more severe illness in patients, yet it is associated with some strange symptoms, such as pinkeye in children.
There’s also the whole matter of Long COVID, a post-acute infection illness associated with potentially debilitating symptoms. Since COVID is a relatively new virus, scientists are still studying its long-term effects on the body — and what they’ve discovered doesn’t look great.
So, yes, grab your free at-home COVID tests, and consider continuing to use pandemic-era risk mitigation measures to keep yourself and your family safe.
If you haven’t already, get your COVID vaccine, which is a safe and highly effective preventative tool. Wearing an effective face mask in crowded indoor settings certainly won’t hurt. And if you or any members of your family are showing symptoms of COVID, get tested.
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