nurse with elderly patient

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also known as CMS, announced that beginning in early spring, Medicare will now cover over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests.

This announcement comes as many Americans are still having difficulty finding at-home COVID-19 tests on store shelves. Some stores have been out of these tests for months.

This initiative will allow for Medicare to pay pharmacies as well as other entities directly for the cost of these tests. Those individuals who have either original Medicare or Medicare Advantage may be able to get up to eight tests per month at no cost to the consumer. However, these tests must be purchased at an eligible pharmacy or other participating stores. Consumers should also know that this policy applies to only tests approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

CMS said in a released statement: “Given the importance of expanding access to testing, CMS has identified a pathway that will expand access to free over-the-counter testing for Medicare beneficiaries.”

In the meantime, those on Medicare are able to access the four free at-home tests promised by the Biden Administration at the beginning of the year. Medicare recipients may access the website in order to have the four free tests sent to their home address.

According to the White House, since the website went live shortly after the beginning of the year, at least 60 million American households have ordered the free COVID-19 tests. White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says that a great portion of these tests have already been shipped to consumers.

The Biden Administration is hoping to have at least 1 billion of these tests on hand to send out to the American public.

In addition to the free tests accessible to all Americans, CMS wanted to remind Medicare recipients that there are over 20,000 testing sites across the nation where individuals may be tested for COVID-19 at no cost. They may also go to their primary care physician in order to access a PCR test that the physician orders. Physicians may also order an antigen test for patients. All of these are at no cost to the consumer.

Those on Medicare have already had access to one test performed in a lab without a physician’s order, and these tests have not be subject to cost-sharing. This has been Medicare’s benefit to the consumer throughout the pandemic.

Those Medicare beneficiaries with Part B coverage are eligible for the new benefit of eight at-home tests at no cost to the consumer come early spring; consumers may access this benefit whether they are enrolled in Medicare Advantage or not.

CMS noted that Medicare Advantage plans may offer payment for these over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests as a supplemental benefit. CMS advised beneficiaries to check their plan, particularly if they have Medicare Advantage.