Here’s how you can get free COVID tests at a pharmacy


Some large pharmacies have begun to treat home testing like any other prescription.

A positive Covid-19 home test is displayed on May 02, 2022 in San Anselmo, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Not too many months ago, people looking for a bit of peace of mind using home tests had to rummage through empty store shelves and pay high prices for COVID-19 antigen tests. 19, but now the process is simpler for most Massachusetts residents: just walk into a pharmacy and show your insurance card.

In January, a federal rule made prescription coverage in medical insurance plans cover the cost of up to eight rapid tests per person per month. Originally, people could buy tests out of pocket and then submit receipts for reimbursement, a sometimes confusing and labor-intensive process. In fact, during the first few weeks of this program, very few people filed for reimbursement, according to WBUR reports.

But now the process is simpler. Some large pharmacies, like CVS, have started to treat the tests like any other prescription.

According to Matthew Blanchette, a CVS spokesperson, people with participating insurance plans can get tests at no upfront cost by going to the pharmacy and showing their benefit ID cards.

“We ask patients to remember to bring their pharmacy ID card(s). Look for cards containing RX BIN and RX PCN information,” Blanchette wrote.

At CVS in particular, insured customers have several options for getting free tests: pharmacy counter pickup with an insurance card, online ordering and in-store pickup, or online ordering and delivery.

Of course, processes differ between health plans, and Blanchette recommended people contact their insurance provider to confirm coverage policy and the process for submitting claims. Some plans may only allow the patient to submit a claim.

According to a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, MassHealth recipients are also eligible to receive 8 home tests per member each month. This covers Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and members can enter pharmacies and show their MassHealth cards to receive tests.

All insurance companies that are members of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans are allowing customers to get rapid tests for free, according to WGBH.

Why use home tests?

Home testing is a crucial part of managing COVID, Cassandra Pierre, associate hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center told They allow people to get a snapshot of their COVID status much faster than PCR tests, which have long been the gold standard for COVID-19 testing.

“Honestly, due to life in society and these days, it’s just part of our protective toolkit,” said Cassandra Pierre, associate hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center. “I would say that’s probably, if we think about what we have in our arsenal, what we have at home, probably even more important than hand sanitizer.”

The current national system is not without flaws, however, Pierre said, pointing out that the tests are not free for the uninsured. Pierre said that’s a problem because often the uninsured population is on the more vulnerable side, maybe they work in jobs that carry a higher level of COVID risk or they have high-risk medical conditions. risk.

Another issue is that of accessibility for those who have access to the tests. While for the most part the tests are simple to perform, Pierre says, sometimes the test requires many very specific steps which may not be accessible to people whose first language is not English or who have language issues. vision.

One resource that can help address this issue is a series of videos from the Boston Public Health Commission that explain how to take iHealth COVID-19 rapid antigen tests in English, Haitian Creole, and Spanish.

Pierre also encouraged people to take advantage of the current availability of testing and the eight tests per month covered by insurance.

“It’s important to really refuel at this point. We all remember last fall to last winter when people ran out of test kits and they were very expensive online,” Pierre said. “Get everything you can get from the insurance company. It’s like one of the few free options and might be worth stocking up on.

There are a multitude of situations in which someone could use a home test, Pierre said, but she recommended using them after known or likely exposure and before visiting people at particular risk of COVID-19. .


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