After Reed sent letter last month urging HHS, CMS to cover the costs of at-home COVID-19 tests for Medicare recipients, Biden Administration reverses course

WASHINGTON, DC – Rhode Islanders with Medicare will soon be able to obtain up to eight free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests, thanks in part to U.S. Senator Jack Reed’s efforts to convince the Biden Administration to cover the costs for beneficiaries of Medicare or Medicare Advantage beginning in early spring.  Last month, Senator Reed sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, urging them to expand access to free testing.

“People over 65 make up the majority of those who’ve been hit hardest by COVID-19, and we need to protect and empower seniors to stay healthy.  I’m pleased Rhode Islanders who rely on Medicare for their health insurance coverage will soon be able to access up to eight over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month.  I appreciate the Biden Administration working with us to cut red tape so seniors and people in need don’t have to submit lengthy paperwork to get reimbursed.  Removing the cost barrier means more people can get tested, and that will help keep individuals, families, and our communities healthier and make the nation more resilient against COVID-19,” said Reed.

This new initiative will cover over-the-counter COVID-19 tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and enable payment directly to participating pharmacies and other participating entities to allow Medicare beneficiaries to pick up tests at no cost and without needing to be reimbursed. This move from CMS follows last month’s announcement that the Biden Administration would be requiring commercial health insurance companies to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free.

Eight free at-home tests per month for Medicare beneficiaries matches what private insurers must cover for their customers. 

Currently, most private insurance companies are required to cover the cost of up to eight over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests per person, per month, but the 61 million Americans enrolled in original Medicare or private Medicare Advantage plans do not get this reimbursement.

CMS anticipates that this option will be available to people with Medicare in the early spring. Until then, people with Medicare can access free tests through a number of channels, including requesting free over-the-counter tests for home delivery at