Medicare enrollees to get free COVID-19 tests at pharmacies

WASHINGTON — Amid fears that the latest coronavirus variant could trigger another surge in cases, Medicare announced Monday that millions of enrollees will finally have access to free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at pharmacies.

More than 59 million people with Medicare “Part B” outpatient coverage will be able to get up to eight free at-home tests per month, enough for an individual to get tested twice a week, as recommended. some doctors.

Medicare fell behind private insurance by following the Biden administration’s directive to cover home testing, as rules and regulations got in the way and officials needed to find a workaround. This is the first time that the Health Insurance for the Elderly and Disabled Program has covered an over-the-counter test at no cost to beneficiaries.

Medicare’s decision could prove prescient.

The BA.2 omicron variant now accounts for more than half of cases in the United States, having rapidly overtaken the original strain. This first wave of omicron this winter caused the biggest spike yet in virus cases, straining many hospitals. Since then, cases nationwide have rapidly fallen to the lowest level since before last summer’s delta surge.

Coronavirus restrictions have been largely lifted. But some areas where BA.2 took hold early are seeing more and more cases.

Monday’s announcement follows another precautionary measure last week, when government health officials authorized a second round of recalls for people aged 50 and over as well as those with weakened immune systems. .

National pharmacy chains participating in the Medicare giveaway include: Albertsons Companies Inc., Costco Pharmacy, CVS, Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Pharmacies, HEB Pharmacy, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Kroger Family of Pharmacies, Rite Aid Corp., Shop & Stop, Walgreens and Walmart.

Christy J. Olson