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Free at-home COVID Tests Again?

Dear Colleague,

As you may have heard, the Biden Administration recently announced $600 million in federal funding will be devoted to making free at-home COVID tests available “to every American household.” We find this bewildering.

You may recall that free at-home COVID tests were available during the pandemic. The tests themselves are very inexpensive but the objective was to promote testing in order to encourage appropriate isolation so this seemed good public policy. However, the federal government formally ended the pandemic public health emergency on May 11 of this year and for good reason. Life has generally returned to normal. After May 11, at-home COVID tests were no longer free. At that time, it was reported that the tests would be covered by insurance but that has turned out to depend on the insurer. Some plans cover at-home COVID tests but many insurance plans do not. But, again, at-home COVID tests are inexpensive and many households have a stockpile of unused tests.

The decision to offer the tests to every American household for free after the pandemic emergency has officially ended and with a threatened government shutdown looming again in November does seem rather irresponsible. Our video was taped before the recent threatened shutdown was averted but there is only a short reprieve until this issue rears its ugly head again.

We know that COVID cases have been trending up and that is the justification for this boondoggle. However, we have also been told that going forward, COVID should be treated more like the flu because colds and flu are more common as the weather starts to get cold and people are not outdoors as much. In sum, we question the rationale in devoting $600 million in funding for at-home tests.

We hope that those who can afford to pay for at-home COVID tests do so which will leave more tests available for those for whom the cost might be burdensome. And our fingers are crossed that the government moves forward with a bit more frugality than demonstrated with this decision.