While New Guidance Requires Most Insurance Companies to Cover Rapid Tests, Lawmakers Urge Inclusion of Medicare
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) joined Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee Health Care Subcommittee, and a group of their Senate colleagues in urging the Biden Administration to extend their guidance requiring insurance companies to pay for rapid tests to include Medicare. Currently, most private insurance companies are required to cover the cost of up to eight over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests per person, per month, but the 61 million Americans enrolled in original Medicare or private Medicare Advantage plans do not get this reimbursement.
The lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chiquita Brooks-LaSure urging them to expand Medicare coverage of free at-home rapid COVID-19 testing.
“Seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in Medicare are at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and people over 65 account for nearly three-quarters of all deaths from the virus. The current policy leaves them on the hook for potentially significant out-of-pocket costs,” said the lawmakers. “We share your commitment to making sure Medicare enrollees receive the highest quality health care, including access to free at-home rapid COVID-19 testing, and look forward to working with you to address this issue.”
Along with Senators Cardin, Van Hollen and Stabenow, today’s letter was signed by the following Senators: Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H), Angus King (Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
The letter can be found here and below.
Dear Secretary Becerra and Administrator Brooks-LaSure:
Thank you for all your work to increase access to free COVID-19 tests around the country, including your recent guidance requiring most insurance companies to cover the cost of up to eight over-the-counter at-home tests per person per month. We strongly encourage you to extend coverage to Medicare, ensuring access for the 61 million Americans enrolled in the program.
Along with vaccination, the widespread availability of free tests will help us defeat this pandemic. That is why we strongly support the Administration’s work over the past year to increase the testing supply and lower costs. A year ago, there were no at-home rapid tests on the market. Today, there are hundreds of millions being distributed around the US, including the Administration’s purchase of 500 million tests with funding included in the American Rescue Plan, and the planned purchase of 500 million more.
Required coverage of testing ordered by a physician, expansion of free testing sites through pharmacies and community health centers, and free at-home rapid tests available through COVIDTests.gov or 1-800-232-0233 are big steps forward, including for seniors. Recent CMS guidance requiring coverage of eight over-the-counter at-home tests per person per month will significantly expand access to millions of Americans with commercial health insurance. However, those enrolled in original Medicare and private Medicare Advantage plans do not have this same access. Seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in Medicare are at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and people over 65 account for nearly three-quarters of all deaths from the virus. The current policy leaves them on the hook for potentially significant out-of-pocket costs.
We share your commitment to making sure Medicare enrollees receive the highest quality health care, including access to free at-home rapid COVID-19 testing, and look forward to working with you to address this issue.