First American News LLC: Raleigh, NC: Medicare, which covers roughly 60 million Americans, will provide free over-the-counter rapid coronavirus tests beginning in the spring, according to the federal government’s Medicare and Medicaid agency.
The policy would “allow Medicare beneficiaries to pick up tests at no cost at the point of sale and without needing to be reimbursed,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday, adding that it would be the first time Medicare covered the whole cost of an over-the-counter test.
The announcement followed weeks of clamor from lawmakers and health care advocates, who argued that Medicare recipients had been passed over in the administration’s push to require private insurers to cover the tests.
Under the plan, which will also apply to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, Medicare will pay eligible pharmacies and health providers to offer the tests. The administration did not say how many pharmacies would participate.
Enrollees will be able to get up to eight tests each month, the same number covered for privately insured Americans as part of a set of new requirements the Biden administration announced last month.
The free tests covered by Medicare would go to some of the most vulnerable parts of the U.S. population. The vast majority of Medicare enrollees are 65 or older; others are younger people with disabilities.