Medicare, Social Security, and Insurance

1/11/2022 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide provides its readers with important COVID-19 updates: free COVID-19 at-home tests, as of Jan. 15, 2022; Medicare coverage of COVID-19 related items and services; and getting falsely billed for COVID-19 vaccines.

Free at-home COVID-19 tests

COVID-19 at-home tests have been hard to come by and moderately expensive during the latest surge, caused largely by the omicron variant. As of Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans, reports the Associated Press news service. The Biden administration announced the change Monday as it looks to amp up its COVID response, including lowering costs and making testing more accessible and convenient.

Under the new policy, Americans will be able to either purchase home testing kits for free under their insurance or submit receipts for the tests for reimbursement – eight tests per person per month. Free PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance with no limit.

Later in January, the federal government will launch a website to begin making at-home COVID-19 tests available via mail, the AP reports. The administration also is scaling up emergency rapid-testing sites in areas experiencing the greatest surges.

“This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “By requiring private health plans to cover people’s at-home tests, we are further expanding Americans’ ability to get tests for free when they need them.”

Click here for the official USPS link to order your free at-home COVID-19 tests

Insurers’ response

“Health insurance providers will work as quickly as possible to implement this guidance in ways that limit consumer confusion and challenges,” Matt Eyles, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement. “While there will likely be some hiccups in early days, we will work with the administration to swiftly address issues as they arise.”

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association had a more direct response. “We are concerned that the policy does not solve for the limited supply of tests in the country and could cause additional consumer friction as insurers stand up a program in just four days’ time,” Kim Keck, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Both groups said they support provisions in the Biden administration plan to counteract potential price gouging on tests.

Americans on Medicare won’t be able to get tests reimbursed through the federal insurance plan, said the AP, but Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans are required to cover the cost of at-home tests. Those who are not on a covered insurance plan can still receive free tests through the forthcoming federal website or from participating local community centers and pharmacies.

COVID-19 updates on Medicare covered items and services

Medicare does pay the following COVID-19 expenses:

How to stay up to date suggests the two following resources for COVID-19 updates.

  • has the latest public health and safety information from CDC and for the overarching medical and health provider community on COVID-19.
  • has the latest information about what the U.S. Government is doing in response to COVID-19.

Billed for a COVID-19 vaccine? Don’t pay

From Kiplinger’s Consumer News Service

The COVID-19 vaccination – along with the recently rolled out booster shot – is absolutely free, thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Even so, nearly one-third of unvaccinated adults say they’re concerned about out-of-pocket costs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Those concerns aren’t helped by reports that some people have been billed for their vaccination appointment.

The skepticism isn’t surprising, because a free service is “kind of an anomaly in the American health care system,“ says Caitlin Donovan, senior director of public relations at the nonprofit Patient Advocate Foundation. But as far as the COVID-19 vaccines are concerned, she says, “nobody should be billed for the vaccine. Not a provider fee, no co-pay, nothing.“

Individuals may be charged for COVID-19 vaccinations because providers bill them directly, instead of their insurers, or due to human error in medical billing systems. In either case, Donovan says, you should call your provider directly and dispute the charges. Your insurer also may be willing to help you get the bill waived.

If you’re concerned about being charged, Donovan recommends getting your vaccination at a public facility, such as a community center, instead of at your doctor’s office or local hospital. To find a center near you, visit

© 2021 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Follow your local and state health departments for COVID-19 updates that affect your community.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff