New COVID-19 At-Home Test Kits: Will Medicare Cover Costs?

A major problem in the coronavirus public health crisis is the shortage in testing. The lack of adequate testing so far has been greatly due to a shortage of test swabs. The kind of swabs that are needed for accurate testing, nasopharyngeal swabs, are in shortage. The government knew there was a shortage in February, but didn’t order more until April. Now the U.S. Department of Defense is producing more of the swabs through 3-D printing. 

The nasopharyngeal swab is a certain length, six inches long, and the tip cannot be cotton since cotton has its own genetic code that can interfere with the COVID-19 test. 

New tests are being created based on saliva where you don’t have to stick the nasopharyngeal swab all the way to the back of the nasal cavity, which are more comfortable and just as accurate. Patients are reminded to cough before taking the saliva test in order to get an accurate result. 

At-home test kits

The FDA has now approved  a handful of emergency at-home test kits. These kits will help in reducing the spread of the virus among healthcare professionals and patients. Currently, the available FDA approved at-home test kits are produced by:

  • Pixel by LabCorp ($119) – does not require upfront payment
  • Everlywell ($109) – takes only three to five days to complete the process and get results
  • Vault ($150)
  • Vitagene ($149)
  • hims & hers ($150)
  • Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory (collection kits from Spectrum Solutions) – saliva-based self collection test

Availability of the tests will vary by state. 

Emergency approval

The FDA has approved these tests under their Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), which means they are not officially approved, but approved for use in an emergency situation, such as during the current pandemic. 

Before getting a test, you will need to fill out an online survey about your symptoms. You will also need a doctor’s order or prescription to get these at-home COVID-19 tests. 

Coverage for those on Medicare

According to Medicare’s website, Medicare will cover all costs for tests to see if you have coronavirus. Medicare will also cover serology tests to see if you have coronavirus antibodies. 

Since these at-home test kits are new, it may take Medicare a while to process the claim. Reminder: unlike regular testing, the at-home test kits do require an order from your doctor. 

What to know

If you use an at-home test kit, it is important to follow the instructions very carefully to ensure accurate results. Heed the FDA’s warnings when determining whether a test kit is a fraud. If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, call your doctor and ask about ordering an at-home test. 

If you are experiencing shortness of breath, pain or pressure in your chest, or confusion, go to a doctor or hospital immediately. 

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