2024 Update: Are COVID tests still free? Yes, they are. There are still 3 ways to get free COVID tests, as of this article’s publish date. We’ll cover COVID tests below and free COVID vaccines in a sister-article. Also, check out my article on how to a get cheap or free flu shot as the flu is having a resurgence.
Are COVID Tests Still Free?
Yes. You may remember that in early 2022, the U.S. government organized 3 ways that you could get free COVID tests:
- Rapid at-home tests shipped from the USPS (there have been a number of different rounds of free USPS kits)
- Rapid at-home tests reimbursed from your insurer
- Rapid or PCR tests at over 20,000 testing sites
Free At-Home COVID Tests From the USPS Are Still Temporarily Available
If you have enjoyed the no-hassle free at-home COVID test deliveries from the USPS, apparently you are not alone. The USPS has now delivered hundreds of millions of COVID test kits to Americans. The program started by delivering 4 tests per residential address and has since added multiple new rounds of deliveries. As of this article’s publish date, free COVID test kit mail delivery orders have resumed on the USPS COVID test order website. The USPS states,
Each order includes #4 individual rapid antigen COVID-19 tests. If an order has not been placed for your address since the program reopened on September 25, 2023, you can place# 2 orders now.
Can you Use Expired COVID Tests? Most At-Home COVID Test Expiration Dates Have Been Extended
The free COVID test you are looking for may be the one you already have. The FDA has been granting shelf-life extensions for a number of at-home COVID tests beyond the original expiration dates listed on the packaging, including the iHealth, QuickVue, and Abbott BinaxNow kits that were sent by the USPS. In some cases, the extensions have been up to 24 months. So, if you stockpiled a number of tests from the USPS, they may still be useable. Check out the linked-to list above for more details.
How to Still Get Free COVID Tests if You Have Already Exhausted USPS Mail Orders or Want a Kit ASAP
If you don’t have any more COVID tests stockpiled from mail deliveries or do not want to wait for a delayed USPS delivery, you’re left with 2 ways that you could still effectively get free COVID tests (for now):
1. Get a Free Rapid or PCR Test at Over 20,000 Testing Sites
- Test Type: rapid antigen or PCR tests at a testing site.
- Length of Time for Test Results: 30 minutes (rapid antigen) or up to 24 hours (PCR).
- Insurance Status: insured (covered by your insurer) or uninsured (paid for by the federal Uninsured Program) individuals.
- Quantity: no limit specified (as needed, seemingly).
- How to Get a Free COVID test: start here to see what free testing sites are available locally.
- When: this program has already started.
2. Get Reimbursed by Your Health Insurer for At-Home Testing
If you don’t want to wait around for a USPS delivery, you can purchase your own test kit.
- Test Type: rapid antigen, at-home self tests (no drop off).
- Length of Time for Test Results: 30 minutes.
- Insurance Status: insured individuals.
- Quantity: up to 8 tests per insured person, per month (e.g. 3 insured persons x 8 tests = 24 tests per month)
- How to Get a Free COVID Test: you can purchase online at retailers like Amazon (iHealth, QuickVue, and Abbott BinaxNow are good options) or buy at retail stores over-the-counter (OTC). Insurers are urged to set up networks where you won’t have to pay out-of-pocket. If you do, hold on to your receipt, and check with your insurer on their reimbursement process. Insurers are required to reimburse the full amount, up to $12 per test (so try to stay under that price, which is doable). More details found here. Confirm the details with your insurer.
- When: started January 15, 2022.
- Thoughts: a good option for those who are insured, if they run out of the 4 free tests in option #1, and don’t want to wait for a USPS delivery, which is common.
Stay healthy out there.