Expiration of COVID Test Reimbursement Mandate Means Prices Will Fall, Experts Say

Starting May 11, payers will no longer have to cover any COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing with no cost sharing for members, or reimburse members who purchase over-the-counter COVID tests. It’s one of many health care policy changes dictated by the planned end of the federal COVID public health emergency (PHE) on that date. Experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that the transition will likely cause PCR test prices to fall.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, both passed in 2020, require private health insurers to cover coronavirus tests, with no cost sharing, as well as any services associated with those tests (such as administrative fees), per an expansive reading of both laws implemented by the Biden administration starting in 2021. During 2020, the incumbent Trump administration had required coverage only for “medically necessary” tests ordered by a practitioner. In addition, the Biden administration starting in January 2022 required health plans to reimburse members for up to eight at-home tests per month.

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Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson

Peter has worked as a journalist since 2011 and has covered health care since 2020. At AIS Health, Peter covers trends in finance, business and policy that affect the health insurance and pharma sectors. For Health Plan Weekly, he covers all aspects of the U.S. health insurance sector, including employer-sponsored insurance, Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage and the Affordable Care Act individual marketplaces. In Radar on Drug Benefits, Peter covers the operations of (and conflicts between) pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, with a particular focus on pricing dynamics and market access. Before joining AIS Health, Peter covered transportation, public safety and local government for various outlets in Seattle, his hometown and current place of residence. He graduated with a B.A. from Colby College.

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