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COVID-19 rapid at-home test kits rest on a table at a free distribution event for those who received vaccination shots or booster shots on Jan. 7 in Los Angeles. Photo: Mario Tama via Getty Images

Health insurers will be required to cover costs for over-the-counter, at-home COVID tests starting this Saturday, the Health and Human Services Department announced Monday.

Why it matters: Under President Biden's strategy to expand access to free COVID testing, insurers will either cover costs upfront or reimburse people after they submit claims.

  • But it’s unclear how the rollout will help the more immediate problem: millions are struggling to access tests due to a supply shortage.

How it works: Insurance companies will be required to cover eight tests per covered person per month, starting after Jan. 15. People will not need a doctor's order.

  • That means a family of four on the same plan would be able to access up to 32 tests per month for free.
  • There is no limit on the number of tests covered if they are ordered by a health care provider after a clinical assessment. This includes people who may need the tests due to underlying medical conditions.

Worth noting: Because people often have to wait an indefinite amount of time to get reimbursed, the Biden administration is pushing insurers and employers to set up programs that would give people direct access to tests with no out-of-pocket costs through pharmacies and retailers.

  • If an individual who has direct access through such programs purchases a test outside the network, insurers must reimburse them up to $12 per test.

Be smart: This does not include people on traditional Medicare or the uninsured.

  • But it does include Medicaid, and people with Medicare Advantage could also qualify depending on their plan.
  • The Biden administration is also providing up to 50 million free at-home tests to community health centers and Medicare-certified health clinics for distribution.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.