Aug 27, 2022 - Health

Government to pause free at-home COVID tests by Sept. 2

iHealth COVID-19 tests are on top of and inside a United States Postal pouch will stop accepting orders for free at-home tests on or before Sept. 2. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Time is running out to order free at-home COVID-19 tests after the government said on its coronavirus website that it will pause orders on Sept. 2, or “sooner if supplies run out.”

Why it matters: Consumers should prepare to soon pay for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines as the federal government prepares to shift costs back to health insurers, Axios’ Arielle Dreher reports.

The big picture: White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said on Aug. 16 that the Biden administration will stop buying vaccines, treatments and tests as early as this fall, CNN reported.

  • The Department of Health and Human Services has a meeting scheduled Tuesday with drugmakers, pharmacies and state health departments to address the changes, the Wall Street Journal reports.

What they’re saying: “Ordering through this program will be suspended on Friday, September 2 because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests,” the COVID test website says.

Yes, but: A senior administration official told USA Today that the government needs to preserve tests for a potential rise in infections in the fall.

Meanwhile, as many as 4.1 million people may remain out of work due to long COVID symptoms, according to a new estimate from Katie Bach, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Axios’ Tina Reed reports.

Flashback: The at-home COVID test program first launched in January and initially allowed for four free tests per residential address, regardless of how many lived in a household. It expanded in March and in May.

Order COVID home test kits

Households can order a total of 16 rapid antigen tests from the government through a USPS website.

  • The tests are available at no cost and ship free.
  • If you can't order through the website, the hotline is at 1-800-232-0233.

Be smart: People with insurance can get eight additional tests per person monthly paid for through their health plans or through reimbursement.

Can you use expired COVID tests?

The Food & Drug Administration recently extended the expiration dates for several over-the-counter COVID tests adding several months to the “use by” date, Axios' Melissa Santos reports.

  • Check the FDA's website for a full list of approved COVID-19 tests and their revised expiration dates.

Go deeper: Millions out of work from long COVID: Brookings

Go deeper