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Why the at-home COVID test kits are going up in price

Consumers will start paying at least five bucks more, depending on the store. The estimated average cost for a test kit is now $23.99.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — It’s difficult to find an at-home COVID test right now, anywhere in the country. You look online and they're out of stock, out of stock, out of stock. You go to the pharmacy to get one and you're met with a sign that says they're sold out.

Eventually, they all get back in stock again. When that happens, those at-home tests will probably cost you more. Chances are that it’s not price-gouging or even supply and demand, but the rule of retail.

Kroger and Walmart are raising the prices of the at-home COVID testing kits on their shelves this week. Both stores pledged to sell kits made by Abbott Laboratories at-cost for 100 days to expand testing options for Americans.

Those 100 days are now up. Consumers will start paying at least five bucks more, depending on the store. The estimated average cost is now $23.99.

Related: Different results on two kinds of COVID tests. Why they can both be right

The Biden administration said it's in the process of purchasing 500 million at-home tests.

“You will be able to go online and register and order free tests to be delivered to you at home. Five hundred million tests though is not a lot when you have 330 million Americans. It's not even two tests per person if everyone wanted to order a test,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, Infectious Disease Specialist, NYU.

The federal government is close to launching the free at-home test website. It's expected to be up and running later in January. 

ARE AT-HOME TESTS COVERED BY INSURANCE?

If you paid for an at-home test, can you submit it to your insurance?
The short answer is, it depends.

Right now, insurance companies are covering COVID testing, including at-home COVID test kits, if your doctor gives you a prescription to get one from the pharmacy. If you simply want to test yourself for a family gathering, travel, or work purposes, most insurance does not cover the cost. However, you can use your HSA or FSA to pay for it.

This cost for at-home tests without a prescription is about to change. President Biden announced the government is going to buy billions of at-home test kits that you can get for free, and he’s requiring your health insurance company to cover the charge if you buy one.

“Making free at-home tests more available than ever before, by having them covered by our private health insurance plans." 

So, when does that start? There's no concrete starting date, but it's looking like some kind of guidance will come out about it by mid-January.

From what we know, you'll still have to pay for the test and then submit your receipt to be reimbursed by your insurance company.

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