MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) - For people with private health insurance, beginning this weekend there will be no out-of-pocket expense for take-home COVID-19 tests.
Starting Saturday, Jan. 15th, health insurance companies will have to cover the costs of tests for those in their plans, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday.
The new requirement means that most consumers with private health insurance can buy at-home tests online or in stores and have them paid for at the time of purchase or get reimbursed by submitting a claim to their insurer.
People will not need to visit their doctor or get a prescription to obtain the free tests. The tests won't be subject to copays or deductibles.
Insurers must pay for up to eight tests a month per person covered by a policy. There won't be any limit if a doctor orders or administers them after an office visit.
Insurers may set up a network of preferred stores, pharmacies, and online retailers, where consumers can receive tests at no cost upfront. People could still buy tests outside that network, but insurers would only have to reimburse up to $12 for each one.
Any test purchased before January 15th will not qualify for reimbursement.
The move, which President Joe Biden announced last month, comes as Americans desperately seek testing amid a surge of the Omicron variant. Finding at-home tests is proving challenging in many parts of the country, even as retailers limit the number that can be purchased by one customer.
"The success of the Biden administration's requirement that insurers pay for at-home Covid tests will depend, of course, on being able to snag those valuable tests to begin with," tweeted Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, on Monday.
The administration also is purchasing 500 million at-home tests to be distributed for free. The first tests will start arriving for distribution "early next week," the White House said Monday.
It is setting up a website and hotline where Americans can request the tests.
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