New way for Medicare beneficiaries to get free OTC COVID-19 tests

April 5, 2022

Medicare announced that more than 59 million Americans with Medicare Part B, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, now have access to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, authorized, or cleared over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests at no cost.

More on HPN

People with Medicare can get up to eight tests per calendar month from participating pharmacies and healthcare providers for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“With this announcement, we are expanding access to free over-the-counter COVID-19 testing for people with Medicare Part B, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. People with Medicare Part B will now have access to up to eight FDA-approved, authorized or cleared over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month 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,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

This is the first time that Medicare has covered an OTC 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 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.

“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,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “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.”

Providers and suppliers eligible to participate include certain types of pharmacies and other healthcare providers who are enrolled in Medicare and able to furnish ambulatory healthcare services such as preventive vaccines, COVID-19 testing and regular medical visits. To ensure that people with Medicare have access to these tests, Medicare is not requiring participating eligible pharmacies and healthcare providers go through any new Medicare enrollment processes. If a healthcare provider currently provides ambulatory healthcare services such as vaccines, lab tests or other clinic type visits to people with Medicare, then they are eligible to participate in this initiative.

A list of eligible pharmacies and other healthcare providers that have committed publicly to participate in this initiative can be found here. Because additional eligible pharmacies and healthcare providers may also participate, people with Medicare should check with their pharmacy or healthcare provider to find out whether they are participating.

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 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 healthcare 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 healthcare professional at no cost through Medicare.
  • In addition to accessing a COVID-19 laboratory test ordered by a healthcare professional, people with Medicare can also access one lab-performed test without an order and cost-sharing during the public health emergency.

CMS release