Free at-home COVID test kits coming in 2022: Here’s where and how to get yours

COVID-19 home testing kits will soon be free to everyone.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

With the new omicron variant spreading rapidly throughout the US, you may be thinking about stocking up on at-home COVID-19 test kits. We have good news: DIY test kits will be free for everyone starting in 2022. Under President Joe Biden’s new plan, private health insurance companies will be required to reimburse Americans when they buy a test kit. That means at-home tests — which can cost $25 apiece — will essentially be free when people claim the reimbursement through their insurance.

People who don’t have health insurance will also have access to free at-home COVID testing kits, and we’ll share all the details below.

The upcoming policy is part of an effort to combat the two main coronavirus mutations of concern in the US: the dangerous delta variant that took hold over the summer and the omicron variant, which has been found in at least 36 states — including California, Colorado and Maryland. (Here’s how omicron is different from delta.) 

We’ll share what we know now, and will continue to update this story as we learn more details, including when the program starts and exactly how it will work. Also, here’s the latest on Merck’s COVID antiviral pill and how to choose a booster shot.

Read more: Clever COVID booster shot trick: Text this number for free rides, easy appointments

When will COVID-19 test kits be free?

Starting in January 2022, health insurers must cover the cost of at-home testing for their customers, according to the president. If you visit a pharmacy and buy a COVID-19 test kit, you can turn in proof of payment to your provider for reimbursement. (This may not be immediate.)

The process is similar to visiting an on-site testing facility and submitting your bill to your health insurance provider. In this case, you’d likely just submit a copy of your receipt.

At this time, it’s unclear if some locations will ask for your health insurance card and submit the bill to your insurance provider for you, as some do when you take a test on-site. We’ll update this story as we learn more.

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Where can I get an at-home COVID-19 test?

At-home rapid COVID-19 tests are available at pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Walmart. You can also buy them online at Amazon, and the stores listed above. It’s unclear at this time if you can still claim them on your insurance when you buy online. Each box typically comes with two tests, unless you buy in bulk.

What if I don’t have health insurance?

For those who don’t have health insurance, Biden says there will be “thousands of locations” available to pick up COVID-19 test kits. You’ll be able to take the kit home to test in private, rather than get swabbed in a drive-thru clinic.

Biden said millions more test kits will be available for free at clinics, health centers and pharmacies.

What should I do if my at-home test shows positive for COVID?

If you take an at-home test and it says you’re positive for COVID-19, it’s recommended that you turn your results in to your health care provider. You should stay home and isolate for 10 days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

For more information, here’s the latest on the federal vaccine mandate and everything you need to know about the Moderna booster shot.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.