As the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus continues to sweep across the United States, Americans are scrambling to get tested. Some individuals need testing for work or to attend certain events. President Biden announced back in December that his administration was launching a website where Americans could request up to four at-home testing kits per household, and that website finally came to fruition this week. Testing sites are not as plentiful as they were during the height of the Delta variant (of COVID-19) surge in late summer and fall of 2021, so consumers are looking for at-home tests if they begin to have symptoms of the highly transmissible Omicron. However, testing kits are in scarce supply, leading consumers to be unable to find at-home tests readily.
Although Biden’s plan for providing tests via the website is just getting rolling, consumers are learning that as part of the Biden Administration’s program, they can get tests free of charge at pharmacies, online retailers, and at local vendors as well.
One of the best places to order an at-home test is via Amazon. Amazon is offering a wealth of tests to consumers, including a molecular test and an antigen test.
The molecular test will provide test results, typically within an hour; however, some test kits will require the consumer send in a sample for lab testing. The molecular test detects whether or not one has an active COVID-19 infection. Amazon explains that some tests also test for flu along with the COIVD-19 virus. The molecular test cannot show whether consumers have had COVID in the past.
The antigen test provides results in fifteen to thirty minutes. However, there is a risk of a false positive. Amazon warns that in areas where few people have COVID, the incidence of a false positive is higher. Amazon warns that a negative antigen test may need to be followed by a molecular test. The antigen test is intended to diagnose a positive COVID infection, but, the antigen test may not properly diagnose a COVID infection in its early stages.
Amazon is perhaps the best place to find at-home testing kits for future needs. Shipping on most of their tests show at least a week’s worth of lead time in order to consumers to receive the kits.
If an individual is symptomatic and wishes to purchase an at-home test locally, finding tests on the shelf could prove challenging. However, many retailers – specifically chain pharmacies such as CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens – are experiencing shortages in-store. Consumers may be able to find at-home tests online from these retailers. Other online vendors such as WellBefore and On/Go may have at-home testing kits available for purchase online.
Consumers should know that part of the Biden Administration‘s plan for providing at-home tests is to provide them at no cost to the consumer. Those with insurance may be able to get tests paid for through their insurance provider. Keep in mind that you’ll need to keep your receipt and you may have to print out a form in order to be reimbursed. Some experts are also emphasizing that consumers will be able to get the quickest reimbursement if they have access to a fax machine and can fax the form along with the receipt to their insurance company.
Some insurance carriers will pay for the at-home testing kit up front; this includes UnitedHealthcare, Humana, and Health Care Service Corp (this company heads several Blue Cross Blue Shield plans). Consumers may have to contact their insurance carrier in order to determine if they qualify for no-cost up-front purchase of at-home testing kits.
Those who are experiencing symptoms may not have the time to wait for at-home tests. Some states have begun to open up more testing sites in response to the Omicron variant and its quick rate of transmission. Consumers are reminded that if they do find at-home tests in local stores to only pick up as many tests as necessary until the online vendors can ship upcoming orders.