1/3/23 Update: free mail delivery orders have resumed on the USPS COVID test order website and deliveries restarted the week of 12/19/22. There is a limit of one order per residential address. Each order will include 4 rapid antigen COVID-19 tests. The Biden administration was able to reappropriate previous COVID funds and stockpiled tests for this new round of delivery, but it’s not clear how many tests have been allocated or how long this round of free tests will last. Before placing new orders, look into COVID-19 test shelf-life extensions on any old kits you still have to see if they are still viable.
9/2/22 Update: as of September 2, 2022, the funding for COVID test shipments from the USPS has been depleted, and the USPS has at least temporarily suspended shipping tests. Are COVID tests still free? It depends – I highlight all of the possibilities in that article. Free COVID vaccines are still available for all, but funding is running dry here and this could change.
The U.S. government has launched a new campaign and website for free COVID tests for anyone who wants them. There are 3 different options available at the moment, including getting free tests mailed directly to you through the USPS, which is a nice new surprise. Read on for more details on how and where to get free COVID tests – I’ll try to break down the 3 options available as simply as I can.
How to Get Free COVID Tests
The new official site to get more information on free COVID tests is covidtests.gov. As of right now, there are 3 different options available to get free COVID testing:
1. Get COVID Tests Mailed Directly from the USPS
Update: orders temporarily resumed 12/15/22.
- Test Type: rapid antigen, at-home self tests (no drop-off).
- Length of Time for Test Results: 30 minutes.
- Insurance Status: insured or uninsured individuals.
- Quantity: limit of 4 tests “per residential address” (4 tests sent per order). Originally, you could only order 4 tests, but then households were permitted to place a 2nd order of free COVID tests (+4 more) and a 3rd order of free COVID tests (+8 more), bringing the total to 16 per household. The 4th round of 4 more tests max brings the possible total up to 20 tests.
- How to Get a Free COVID Test: the tests must be requested at special.usps.com/testkits. You only need to submit your name and address (email address is optional for shipping confirmation and status updates).
- When: orders have already started. Tests will begin shipping against (at no charge) 12/19/22. Estimated processing/shipping time is 7-12 days, but delivery times may vary based on test availability.
- Thoughts: I’ve already placed my order. Couldn’t have been easier, with only name and address required. I have a feeling that the original allotment of these are going to go quick.
2. Get Reimbursed by Your Health Insurer for At-Home Testing
- 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: buy the over-the-counter (OTC) COVID tests anywhere that sells them (e.g. local pharmacy or other retailer). 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.
- When: starting January 15, 2022. You will not be able to be retroactively reimbursed for tests purchased prior to January 15, 2022.
- Thoughts: a good option for those who are insured, if they run out of the 4 free tests in option #1.
3. 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 testing sites have teamed up with the government in your state. National testing site options include:
- CVS Health
- Local independent pharmacies (in partnership with Health Mart, eTrueNorth, and TOPCO)
- Rite Aid
- Walmart via Quest Diagnostics (availability limited)
- At a local health center near you
- Your state or county health department
- When: this program has already started.
For more information on when to get tested for COVID, see the latest CDC guidance.
Get your free tests. You paid for them.