The White Home’s long-awaited web site for ordering free Covid-19 fast checks is lastly reside. The brand new web page, covidtests.gov, arrives amid a shortage of rapid tests and a surge in Covid-19 instances fueled by the omicron variant. Whereas this new program isn’t flawless, flooding the nation with simply accessible fast checks could possibly be a robust software to struggle the pandemic.

Covidtests.gov is a part of the White Home’s plan to purchase and distribute 1 billion rapid tests over the coming months. The top aim of the brand new testing initiative is to make it simpler for folks to seek out out whether or not they have Covid-19, and if essential, isolate to curb the unfold of the virus. Technically, covidtests.gov wasn’t presupposed to launch till January 19, however the authorities launched a “beta phase” model of the location forward of that deadline, permitting many individuals to order checks early. Inside just a few hours of launch, the beta model turned the preferred government website by a long shot.

Whereas it represents an enchancment over the state of affairs late final yr, when fast checks weren’t solely very tough to seek out but additionally costly, the Biden administration’s new program comes with some caveats. To start with, every American family can solely order 4 checks — no matter how many individuals reside there. And a number of the individuals who’ve tried to order checks have already run into technical points, which might worsen as extra customers go to the location.

“Hopefully, this isn’t a state of affairs the place those that are in a position to leap on-line first are the one ones who can get checks,” Lindsey Dawson, the affiliate director of HIV coverage on the Kaiser Household Basis, informed Recode. Dawson added that the beta launch might assist the brand new Covid-19 website keep away from a number of the bugs from the early Healthcare.gov days.

Given the frenzy round this new Covid-19 testing choice, you in all probability have some questions on find out how to navigate this system. Let’s begin with the fundamentals of the web site.

So this new web site permits you to order free Covid-19 checks. How onerous might it’s?

The method is designed to be very simple. To order your family’s batch of 4 at-home fast antigen checks, go to covidtests.gov, which explains that everybody with a residential handle in the US (in addition to folks residing at abroad diplomatic and army outposts) is eligible to get the checks.

When you’re on the homepage, click on on the brilliant blue “Order Free At-House Exams” button, and also you’ll get redirected to a particular part of the US Postal Service’s web site. (USPS partnered with the Division of Well being and Human Companies to assist with the logistics of the brand new program, and it’s also possible to begin your order through the USPS website.) Fill out the shape on the web page by offering your title, supply handle, and, if you would like an electronic mail affirmation, your electronic mail handle. The web page does have a field together with your order info together with a spot for a greenback quantity, but it surely doesn’t ask for any bank card info. The greenback quantity ought to stay at $0.00 all through the ordering course of.

When you fill out that kind, click on on the brilliant inexperienced “Examine Out Now” button, and you need to be despatched to a brand new web page that features a USPS monitoring quantity. In the event you offered your electronic mail handle, you’ll additionally obtain an electronic mail with that very same affirmation quantity. In the event you reside within the continental US, your checks might be shipped with USPS’s First Class Package deal Service. In the event you reside in Alaska or Hawaii, in a US territory, or at an abroad diplomatic or army handle, your checks might be despatched via Precedence Mail. The location additionally has a frequently asked questions section that explains find out how to monitor your order and find out how to use the fast checks as soon as they’re delivered.

Don’t wait to order checks. As a result of checks are presupposed to take between seven to 12 days to ship, the federal government recommends that individuals order checks on the location now, reasonably than ready till they’ve signs or are uncovered to somebody with Covid-19. The hope is that everybody within the nation will quickly have their very own mini stockpile of checks to make use of once they want.

Appears simple sufficient. What’s the catch?

There’s no catch, however there are a number of caveats you need to remember.

The largest limitation of Biden’s new free fast check program is the four-test restrict, and for now, there are not any exceptions to this rule. Whereas 4 checks would possibly appear to be sufficient for a small family, rapid tests work best when they’re used in succession, and one particular person might have multiple check to catch a Covid-19 case.

To stop the identical family from ordering greater than 4 checks, the USPS web site is designed to catch individuals who put in the identical handle for a number of orders. This would possibly trigger some individuals who reside in residence buildings to come across an error message saying that somebody has already ordered checks for his or her handle. In the event you run into that downside, double-check that you simply’re including a specific apartment or unit number when filling out the order kind.

“Each web site launch, in our view, comes with threat,” White Home press secretary Jen Psaki informed reporters at a briefing on Tuesday. “We are able to’t assure there gained’t be a bug or two.”

For individuals who don’t have entry to a pc or an web connection, the federal government has promised to arrange a phone line, although it’s not clear when that may go reside. This quantity would be the solely choice for ordering checks with out visiting the net portal. You won’t be able to cease by a neighborhood submit workplace and choose up the checks in particular person.

What are my choices if I would like greater than 4 checks?

Past ordering checks on the brand new authorities web site, you’ll be able to nonetheless purchase fast checks at pharmacies and on-line — and also you would possibly be capable of get reimbursed for them. In case you are on a personal insurance coverage plan, Medicaid, or the Kids’s Well being Insurance coverage Plan, you’re entitled to get a minimum of some, if not all, of the price of as much as eight checks reimbursed each month, in accordance with new insurance guidance issued by the Biden administration in January. In the event you don’t have insurance coverage or depend on Medicare and wish greater than the 4 checks offered by the federal authorities, you need to search out free checks from state or native organizations.

If my non-public insurance coverage covers fast checks, how do I get reimbursed?

First issues first: Save the receipt for any Covid-19 check you purchase. Past that, precisely the way you get reimbursed for at-home fast checks relies on which insurance coverage plan you’ve got and the place you acquire the check.

Some insurance coverage firms have partnered with sure pharmacies in order that their clients can get checks with out going via the reimbursement course of. In case your plan doesn’t do that, you need to contact your insurance coverage firm for particulars on submitting for a reimbursement.

Some insurance coverage firms have made the reimbursement course of a lot simpler than others. For example, when you have UnitedHealthcare, you’ll be able to already choose up a fast check without spending a dime at any Walmart or Ceremony Help pharmacy, so long as you’ve got your insurance coverage card. When you have Kaiser Permanente, you’ll be able to submit a reimbursement declare through a website. When you have Cigna, you’re dealing with a extra arduous course of that entails filling out a paper reimbursement form that have to be mailed or faxed to the corporate. That Cigna reimbursement kind is totally different from the varieties you employ for different insurance coverage claims.

Additionally, understand that it could take a while for insurance coverage firms’ rapid test reimbursement systems to become fully operational. Some insurance coverage firms could change their strategy within the coming weeks and months.

Getting a fast check nonetheless feels difficult. When will issues be simple?

The testing state of affairs is enhancing, but it surely’s not good. There are nonetheless a whole lot of unknowns which have thrust much more uncertainty into an already very unsure interval of the pandemic. Even with this new federal authorities web site, you don’t know for sure whether or not your check will truly arrive by the point you’ll want it, or whether or not you’ll have sufficient checks to catch a Covid-19 case must you get sick.

Nonetheless, covidtest.gov is a good alternative to refill on provides when you can, and the brand new insurance coverage advantages — if you happen to’re fortunate sufficient to have them — are higher than paying full worth for at-home checks. Irrespective of the way you do it, you’ll in all probability profit from having some fast checks round. And because the specialists say, check early and check typically. Issues will get higher.


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