With the surge in COVID-19 cases in Illinois, the new variant of omicron spreading across the country and the winter holidays approaching, the demand for COVID testing has increased.
Free, in-person COVID-19 testing is available statewide. But many are opting for the convenience of home COVID testing.
However, concerns were raised after some tests were recalled due to false positive results – and some tests are more expensive than others (some, however, are an eligible expense for flexible savings accounts and flexible savings accounts. health savings).
President Biden detailed a new COVID mitigation plan on Thursday that requires private insurers to cover the cost of COVID-19 home testing – and make it completely free.
So how can you get a free home COVID test? And how precise are they?
Here is what you need to know.
How do I get a free at-home COVID test?
The White House said this week that the 150 million Americans with private health insurance will be eligible for full reimbursement after purchasing a home COVID test.
This includes people insured by their employer as well as those who have signed up for an Affordable Care Act market plan, said Lindsey Dawson, associate director at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The new rules however not apply to those on Medicaid and Medicare, although this may change, and those on Medicare with private insurance may be covered.
It’s unclear exactly when the new coverage will take effect, and the previous tests you purchased are unlikely to be eligible for a refund, Dawson said.
Overall, details of the new plan are vague, and the Biden administration has promised more advice by mid-January.
Are there different home tests? Which one can I get and where can I get one?
Experts expect most home tests available at pharmacies to be included in the policy.
Test kits are available at drugstores without a prescription, and a box with two tests typically costs around $ 25. Swabs, test solution, and instructions are included.
Adults and adolescents can test themselves. An adult can test a child from the age of 2.
Most tests require a swab of about a half inch inside both nostrils, so it can tickle but doesn’t hurt. The tests generate a positive result if a viral protein is detected in your sample.
How can I be sure to be reimbursed?
Keep your receipt, said Caitlin Donovan, spokesperson for the Patient Advocate Foundation.
“Your normal receipt should be fine – I even printed receipts from Amazon – and then you’ll need to send it in,” Donovan said, adding that insurers usually have a reimbursement form they want you to fill out.
“Insurers will generally have a physical mailing address,” she said. “They may also have an option for electronic submission, which means you can upload it to their site or send it by email.”
To send a simpler receipt, Donovan recommends asking the cashier to call the tests separately from additional purchases.
The Biden administration has yet to release additional information regarding the reimbursement timeline for people ordering a test.
What if I don’t have insurance? What if I have Medicaid or Medicare?
If you don’t have insurance or are covered by Medicaid and Medicare, the White House has said it doubles the number of free tests it distributes in community centers to 50 million, from 25 million.
You should be able to find one of these centers on your state or local health agency website.
How accurate are home COVID tests?
The most accurate form of COVID testing is a PCR test, although no currently licensed home test offers this method and instead relies on antigen testing.
Chicago’s top doctor, however, said home COVID antigen testing is both accurate and convenient.
Referring specifically to the BinaxNow test, which can be purchased at department stores like Walmart, Walgreens and Target, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady told a Facebook Live in August: “ Especially if you or your child, you know, has symptoms, it’s a very, very good test. If you don’t have symptoms, it’s still a good test. And it’s the one you can just take home with you and have a result in 15 minutes. It’s like a pregnancy test – you see it right away. “
Are there any false negatives?
According to Dr Nimmi Rajagopal, associate chairman of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Cook County Health, the accuracy of the test “depends on the scenario.”
“There is, of course, with all the tests, there is a ratio of you can get false positives or false negatives and those tests fall into the same realm,” she told NBC Chicago. “So it kind of depends on what you’re testing and the risk. ”
Home tests will miss some infections and, in rare cases, incorrectly indicate an infection. A popular test misses about 15 in 100 infections – these are called “false negatives” – and gives a false positive result in about 1 in 100 people who are not infected.
There are many factors that affect the effectiveness of tests, including when and what type of test. Rajagopal recommends that those with persistent symptoms and known exposure who test negative continue to isolate and monitor, and either have another test in a few days or contact their healthcare provider for further advice.
Are there any false positives?
The FDA issued an alert in early October about the potential for false positive results with certain home COVID-19 tests produced by Ellume, which have been sold at various retailers nationwide.
“In recent weeks, we have noted an increased likelihood that Ellume’s COVID-19 home testing of specific batches may provide an incorrect positive result,” the company wrote in a statement.
The company also said that “the reliability of the negative results is not affected by this issue and is not included in this recall.”
A manufacturing problem would be the root of the problem. Affected test kits are being removed from store shelves.
The FDA recommends contacting your health care provider, emergency care facility, or other COVID-19 testing site and requesting a COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test if you have received a positive test result with the one of the affected lots of the Ellume COVID-19 home test. within the past two weeks and have not already had a follow-up molecular diagnostic test to confirm the positive test result.
But according to the FDA, “all tests can give false negative and false positive results.”
“People with positive results should self-isolate and seek additional care from their health care provider,” the agency said in a statement. “People who test negative and have COVID-like symptoms should follow up with their health care provider, as negative results do not rule out COVID-19 infection. “
How are home tests reported to health authorities if they are positive?
Those who test positive are encouraged to follow the latest CDC guidelines and report the results to your health care provider, who is responsible for reporting your test results to the state health department.
Arwady has previously said the process is unlikely to happen for every test.
“All of these negatives are not being reported realistically,” Arwady said. “We don’t count, you know, it’s a fiction that we ever counted every COVID test.”
She added that while many home tests go unreported, positive results are likely provided to health care providers and then to health services.
What is the difference between home testing and home collection testing?
Home collection testing involves taking a sample from your home and then sending it to a lab for the results.
Home testing provides results from a sample and results are available within minutes.
Should I use a home test before I gather for vacation or travel?
Some of the most common circumstances in which people may want to take a home test are if they have come in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID, are showing symptoms of the virus, or are expected to attend a high. – risky event, such as a large family reunion.
“We’ll use rapid tests to double-check everyone before we get together,” said Dr. Emily Volk, president of the College of American Pathologists, which is planning a holiday meal with six vaccinated family members. “We’ll do it as soon as they walk through the door. “
Most take-home home tests purchased from Walgreens will not provide results that you can use before a flight or cruise. Check out the CDC’s guidelines to see which COVID-19 tests are approved if you need them before you travel.