Reimbursement for at-home COVID test becomes available

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Bay Area stores are facing a shortage of at-home COVID antigen tests, just as a new policy begins Saturday spurring demand by allowing people with private health insurance to get reimbursed for at-home test kits purchased on or after January 15th.

“I already bought some but if there’s free ones I’m going to get some more,” said John Song, a San Ramon resident.

Americans with private insurance can get up to eight at-home COVID test kits per family member every month. That means a family of four can obtain up to 32 of the test kits for free.

Getting tests right away, though, could be a big challenge.

Many stores are waiting for supplies to catch up, after a spike in demand as people stocked up for holiday gatherings and travel.

“It’s very hard to find. My wife’s been looking for some cause my daughter’s getting married and people want to test because of traveling,” said Bill Boardman of San Ramon, “Being reimbursed doesn’t matter if you can’t get them.”

Some pharmacies say when they have received a shipment of several hundred tests, they sell out within hours.

At NowRX, a pharmacy delivery service in Pleasanton, the pharmacy manager Lily Naanos said they are being flooded with calls from customers checking on supplies.

“Probably 20 calls a day here but even more to other locations,” said Naanos, “Our supplier does not have them…they’re going to allocate certain amounts for each pharmacy so I don’t think you can get just an unlimited supply initially.”

The White House is also launching a new website COVIDTESTS.GOV where Americans can order free at-home tests online starting Wednesday January 19th.

President Biden says his administration has doubled the original order to boost federal supplies.

“An additional five hundred million more tests to distribute for free. That will be a billion tests in total,” said President Biden.

The White House says that at first, each household will be able to order up to four free tests per address, to ensure there are enough tests for everyone who wants one.

Once you place an order, the tests are expected to ship within 7-12 days through the U.S. Postal Service.

FEDERAL COVID TEST WEBSITE:

https://www.covidtests.gov/

FEDERAL AT-HOME TEST PROGRAM DETAILS:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/01/14/fact-sheet-the-biden-administration-to-begin-distributing-at-home-rapid-covid-19-tests-to-americans-for-free/

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL - COVID TESTING:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/index.html

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Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.

Looking for a COVID test? Here are tips to find at-home testing kits and get them for free

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Searching for an at-home COVID test? It may seem daunting, but it is possible to find testing kits in stores and online with some tools, determination and sometimes luck in the face of ongoing shortages.

Some are using the same tactics to find the tests that are being used to score the hard-to-find PS5 and Xbox Series X video game consoles: Following Twitter and social media accounts that blast when the tests are back in-stock.

There are also apps and websites that alert consumers when new tests arrive.

And there’s Eli Coustan, a 14-year-old from the Evanston suburb of Chicago, who has made it his mission to help people find at-home tests.

►COVID tests: How to get free at-home COVID-19 tests with insurance reimbursement

►COVID quarantine and isolation guide:What to know and what to have at home

The ninth-grader said he started his website Findacovidtest.org at the end of December after seeing how difficult it was to find the at-home tests.

“I had created a site to find vaccines earlier in the pandemic and knew that I would be able to use a lot of similar technology to create something to find at-home tests you can order online and get shipped,” Eli told USA TODAY, adding he started ILVaccine.org in February 2021 after he saw how hard it was for his grandparents to get appointments.

Tips to find at-home COVID tests

Your mileage may vary but here are tips to help you find at-home COVID tests and other items that are shortage items.

In-stock alerts

For shopping online, alerts or notifications whether from store apps or third-party sites or apps are one of the best ways to find available inventory when it restocks.

Target has in-stock alerts that you can sign up for with its app. Apps, including Hot Stock, also can send you notifications. The app is free but there’s an option to pay $5.49 to receive notifications for up to 10 products.

Eli says his site automatically updates every five to 10 minutes and site visitors can sign up for text notifications.

The site tracks COVID tests online inventory at Amazon, CVS, Costco, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club and more and you can select the brand of test you’re interested in.

♦ Shopping tip: Once you get an alert, you’ll need to act fast as supplies will go fast and it can take multiple attempts.

►Save better, spend better: Money tips and advice delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here

►COVID test prices:Prices up at Walmart, Kroger as at-home rapid tests remain hard to find

Check in-store test inventory with apps and Google Shopping

Before heading to a brick-and-mortar Target, Walmart or another retailer, you can get a better idea of store inventory by checking store websites or apps. But similar to ordering online, the inventory can quickly change.

Google Shopping also allows shoppers to check in-store inventory from home. Find local stores that carry the products you are looking for from Google Shopping and select the “in stock” filter to see only the nearby stores that have it on their shelves.

►Shortages 2022:Grocery stores still have empty shelves amid supply chain disruptions, omicron and winter storms

►FDA warning:FDA warns against using unapproved COVID-19 tests because of a ‘high risk of false results’

Follow restock Twitter accounts for COVID test updates

According to a Vice story Thursday, several PS5 restock accounts on Twitter have started to post alerts about the COVID-19 test availability.

Here are three Twitter accounts to watch for test updates:

How to get free home COVID tests with insurance

With insurance companies now covering the over-the-counter tests as of Saturday, there will be new motivation to find tests. Many will be free after insurance reimbursement.

Private health plans are required to cover the over-the-counter tests at up to $12 per test. Consumers can either get the testing kits at no cost at participating pharmacies that their plan sets up or submit receipts for reimbursement from the insurance company.

Learn more about how to get insurance reimbursement here.

►MLK Day 2022:Stock market, most banks closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while stores, restaurants open

Order free tests at COVIDtests.gov starting Wednesday

Americans can start ordering free COVID-19 tests starting Wednesday from the Biden administration’s new website. Reimbursement isn’t required and shipping is free.

The website for ordering is COVIDtests.gov and the site says “Every home in the U.S. can soon order 4 free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests.”

The tests, part of the administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections, will be mailed to homes within seven to 12 days, according to an official who briefed reporters.

Contributing: Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY; Associated Press

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko. For shopping news, tips and deals, join us on our Shopping Ninjas Facebook group.

More shortages?

Share what items you are having a hard time finding and how inflation is hitting your wallet on the form below. If you don’t see a form, click here.

Insurers Say Saturday Is Too Soon to Meet White House Goals on Rapid Tests

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Uncertain of what the rules will be, Ms. Hogue is advising her clients to save not just receipts but also the boxes that the tests come in, because some plans may require the boxes as proof of purchase.

The White House gave a statement to The New York Times on Friday encouraging patients to hold on to receipts for the tests they purchase: “If Americans are charged upfront, it is important that they keep their receipts and be prepared to submit them for reimbursement. The most important thing is that starting Saturday those tests are covered free of charge.”

Some public health experts have criticized the plan as unnecessarily complex, saying they would have preferred the Biden administration to provide free kits directly to patients.

“The direct provision of inexpensive tests for the American public would be the simplest from a consumer standpoint,” Lindsey Dawson, an associate director at the Kaiser Family Foundation, previously told The Times. “Someone will need to know it’s reimbursable, navigate the reimbursement process, and front the cost to begin with.”

Other countries have spent more heavily on rapid testing. In Britain, citizens can use a government website to order free rapid tests for home use. Germany invested hundreds of millions of dollars to create a network of 15,000 rapid testing sites. The United States has instead focused public purchasing on vaccines, and efforts to encourage their uptake.

Some local governments in the United States have invested heavily in rapid testing to counter the latest wave of cases. Washington, which has experienced a substantial surge in virus cases, now allows residents to pick up four free rapid tests daily at libraries across the city.

The Biden administration has instead relied more heavily on tests delivered in doctor’s offices. Federal laws have required insurers to cover those at no cost to the patient since the early months of the pandemic.

What COVID-19 test reimbursements mean for Central California

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FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) – At-home COVID-19 tests are flying off the shelves.We visited five different pharmacies to find one that had a few left in stock, which they kept behind the counter and limited to one box per customer.Store employees we talked with say in the last few weeks, every shipment they got sold out quickly.The Tulare County Health Department says the demand is no surprise since people are returning to work and school.“They have now found that doing the rapid test is something that can be a confirmatory beginning stage for seeing if you have the virus,” says Karen Elliot.The Biden administration announced at-home rapid tests would be reimbursable starting January 15th.It’s a move that will help thousands in Central California.“It talks about the ability for people to afford it,” Elliot said. “But, you know, we live in a county where you have a poverty level that might be a barrier for those to afford a test kit.“But there are a few things to note about the reimbursements.You can only get eight tests reimbursed per month.Insurance companies are being encouraged to partner with pharmacies so you don’t have to pay out of pocket.But if they do and you buy your test somewhere else, you will get only get a maximum of $12 per test, or if you buy a kit with 2, you get $24.If you spend more, insurance won’t cover it.For people not insured or on public insurance, 50 million free at-home tests were passed out to health centers across the country.“This is something we received from the state and we are now passing them with community-based organizations to provide the tests,” Elliot said.Later this month, the White House will set up a website where you can request free tests be mailed to you.Currently, the Tulare County Health Department is not collecting the results of at-home tests.However, you are recommended to register the answer on the app indicated in the instructions and call your local physician if your results are positive.School districts in the South Valley handed out thousands of tests for their students in the last few days. Some like Visalia Unified still have plenty left if parents still need to grab one for their children.

Michigan receives $44.9M as reimbursement for COVID-19 testing, reporting costs

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More than $44 million in federal funding has been made available to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for costs related to the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“FEMA’s Public Assistance program is an important resource for state and local governments, jurisdictions, and eligible private non-profits to cover eligible COVID-19 expenses,” said Moises Dugan, acting regional administrator, FEMA Region 5. “The state’s actions protected the health and safety of Michigan residents and helped reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division announced on Monday (Jan. 10) that $44,934,145 was made available under the federal disaster declaration of March 27, 2020.

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“COVID-19 has not only taken a physical and mental toll on Michiganders, it has cost the state millions of dollars as we work to ensure everyone’s health and safety,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “This federal assistance is a big step toward helping our state agencies recoup some of those costs. I am grateful to our federal partners for this assistance and will continue to look for opportunities to support our state’s response.”

The funding will reimburse MDHHS for costs related to providing COVID testing and reporting statewide from July 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2021.

Around $8.1 million of the grant covered COVID-19 testing and reporting for residents at MDHHS long-term care facilities.

Around $36.8 million covered COVID-19 testing and reporting for inmates, prison staff and visitors at the Michigan Department of Corrections facilities.

“We are grateful to our federal partners for this funding which will help the State of Michigan address the cost of this pandemic and the efforts of MDHHS to keep Michiganders safe and healthy,” said Col. Joe Gasper, state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and director of the Michigan State Police. “Our state agencies have worked around the clock to protect the well-being of all Michigan residents, and their work is not done yet. We will continue to support them in those efforts and thank them for their dedication.”

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Read: Complete Michigan COVID coverage