Biden’s plan for free home Covid test could be ineffective, experts warn – .

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Biden’s plan for free home Covid test could be ineffective, experts warn – .


WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s new plan to force private insurance companies to cover the cost of rapid home Covid testing could do little to make testing more widespread, experts warn, due to the complicated nature of reimbursement .

The administration has renewed its pressure to test access as part of its preparation for a possible winter outbreak of Covid and the unknown impact of the new omicron variant.

Health experts have warned of a number of pitfalls in the proposed plan that could prevent Americans from getting tested regularly for Covid, which many say is essential, along with vaccines, to control the pandemic.

Biden’s plan would require people with private health insurance to first purchase the tests and then submit claims for reimbursement in order to gain coverage. This means people would have to pay up front, keep receipts, and navigate the opaque and complicated process of submitting a claim to their health care provider.

“It might bring some relief, but it also creates barriers to getting that relief,” said Lindsey Dawson, associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “This policy alone will not necessarily make testing common practice for everyone in the United States. “

Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, said not all families will have the option of paying up front for home tests, which can be expensive. over $ 20. Even for people who can afford to float the cash, part of the challenge for the Biden administration will be raising awareness about refunds.

« [Private insurance holders] may not know how to keep their receipt or that their health plan will even cover it. So that’s almost the first step, it’s just making sure people know they can do it now, ”Corlette said.

It’s also unclear whether the plan will limit the number of tests a person can get reimbursed for and whether there will be certain restrictions on who is eligible for reimbursement. Some experts, for example, worry that insurers will only reimburse tests for people who have an underlying illness or who have been directly exposed to someone with Covid.

An administration official said that a free test at one of more than 20,000 federally funded testing sites in the United States was also an option.

The Biden administration said it plans to release more details on the new policy by January 15.

“All of these details have to be worked out and I’m not yet convinced that at best we’ll get more than one test per person,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. “In order to reduce the number of cases we see, we need to have widespread, easy and free – or almost – access to these tests. And I am not at all convinced that what they are proposing is going to achieve this. “

The Biden administration said the new rule would cover testing for the estimated 150 million Americans who have private insurance. For those without private health care, the administration said it will provide 50 million free home tests to community health clinics and rural health centers.

Some experts have questioned why the Biden administration would not buy tests and provide them for free to all Americans, as many European countries have done. Ideally, Corlette said, Americans would be able to have a handful of home tests and could use them regularly to make better decisions about how they interact with their communities.

“For this to work, people have to be able to afford the tests, they have to be accessible,” she said. “Ideally, you just have a stack of them in your bathroom closet and ready to go out whenever you smell a sniffle. “

When asked on Monday why the White House was not pursuing a strategy that would be less complicated for Americans to navigate, press secretary Jen Psaki suggested an alternative plan was not feasible.

“Should we send one to every American?” Psaki said. “So what if you – if every American has a test?” How much does it cost, and what happens next? “

Nuzzo said she found Psaki’s response disturbing.

“If you dismiss the idea that every American takes a test as too expensive, what is this insurance policy really?” Nuzzo said. “It just gave me the impression that this policy was a facade. “

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