The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded access to free over-the-counter COVID-19 testing for people with Medicare Part B, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan.
Seniors with Medicare Part B will now have access to up to eight tests per month at no cost – the first time that Medicare has covered an over-the-counter self-administered test at no cost to beneficiaries.
Up until now, the laws governing traditional Medicare didn’t provide coverage for self-administered diagnostic tests.
CMS announced Monday that the new initiative will allow Medicare to directly pay participating eligible pharmacies and other health care providers to allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive free tests, in addition to the two sets of four free at-home COVID-19 tests Americans can continue to order from covidtests.gov.
National pharmacy chains are participating in this initiative, including: Albertsons Companies, Inc., Costco Pharmacy, CVS, Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Pharmacies, H-E-B Pharmacy, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Kroger Family of Pharmacies, Rite Aid Corp., Shop & Stop, Walgreens, and Walmart.
Providers and suppliers eligible to participate include certain types of pharmacies and other health care providers who are enrolled in Medicare and provide ambulatory health care services such as preventive vaccines, COVID-19 testing, and regular medical visits. To ensure that people with Medicare have access to these tests, Medicare is not requiring participating eligible pharmacies and health care providers go through any new Medicare enrollment processes. If a health care provider currently provides ambulatory health care services such as vaccines, lab tests, or other clinic type visits to people with Medicare, then they are eligible to participate in this initiative.
“For the first time in its history, Medicare is paying for an over-the-counter test,” said Deputy Administrator Dr. Meena Seshamani, director of the Center for Medicare at CMS. “This is because COVID-19 testing is a critical part of our pandemic response. Combined with the free over-the-counter tests available through covidtests.gov, this initiative will significantly increase testing access for Americans most vulnerable to COVID-19 and will provide valuable information for future payment policy supporting accessible, comprehensive, person-centered health care.”
In addition to the new initiative and available tests via the government website, Medicare beneficiaries may also access:
- No-cost COVID-19 tests through health care providers at over 20,000 testing sites nationwide
- Lab-based PCR tests and antigen tests performed by a laboratory when the test is ordered by a physician, non-physician practitioner, pharmacist, or other authorized health care professional at no cost through Medicare
- One lab-performed test without an order and cost-sharing during the public health emergency