Sep 2, 2022 - Health

Biden administration suspends free at-home COVID tests program

COVID tests in a USPS padded envelope

The federal government ended its free at-home test program Sept. 2. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The federal government on Friday suspended its program for ordering free at-home COVID tests "because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests."

Why it matters: The Biden administration is suspending new orders to preserve "limited supply" to ensure there are tests available in the fall when it's possible "we might face a new rise in infections and more acute need," a senior administration official said in a statement to Axios.

By the numbers: Over 600 million tests have been distributed through the program.

  • Every household had the opportunity to place three orders for a total of 16 tests.

Meanwhile, private health insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid are still covering COVID tests either directly or through reimbursement.

  • 92% of Americans are covered by one of these programs that provide up to eight covered tests per person each month.
  • Other low or no-cost testing options exist for people without insurance.
  • Some states and local governments continue to offer free tests.

What they're saying: “We have warned that Congressional inaction would force unacceptable tradeoffs and harm our overall COVID-19 preparedness and response — and that the consequences would likely worsen over time,” the senior administration official said in the statement to Axios.

  • “Unfortunately, because of the limited funding we have to work with, we have had to make impossible choices about which tools and programs to invest in — and which ones we must downsize, pause, or end all together,” the statement said.

What’s next: The program could return if more funding is provided, the senior administration official said.

  • “If Congress provides funding, we will expeditiously resume distribution of free tests through COVIDTests.gov. Until then, we believe reserving the remaining tests for distribution later this year is the best course," the statement said.

COVID test expiration dates extended

The Food and Drug Administration has extended 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.

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.

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