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Medicare planning to cover at-home COVID tests starting this spring

Medicare will soon begin paying for at-home COVID tests purchased at select pharmacies and retailers, CNN reports, per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

CMS expects said coverage will be available in early spring.

The change arrives after the Biden administration last month "began requiring health insurers to cover the cost of home tests for most Americans with private insurance," CNN writes. That said, Medicare was not included in the White House directive, angering seniors enrolled in the program.

Considering over-the-counter tests have not been covered by traditional Medicare before, the new process now being set up by CMS could take time, "which is why reimbursements won't start immediately," CNN explains. 

"In the weeks ahead, we'll be working diligently on behalf of people with Medicare to set up a process for them to receive free over-the-counter tests through eligible pharmacies and other participating entities," CMS' Dr. Meena Seshamani told CNN.

The list of participating retailers and pharmacies will be released when coverage officially begins, CNN adds. Enrollees will not need to see a doctor or secure a prescription to get their free tests; they are eligible for eight tests per covered individual per month.

Until the new offering kicks in, CMS recommends Medicare enrollees order their four free at-home tests from the recently-launched government distribution progam at covidtests.gov, utilize free community testing sites, or go through a lab per their health care provider.