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HHS COVID-19 advisor discusses testing availability, upcoming insurance reimbursement

"We are hopeful that people will be able to get easier access to testing in the weeks ahead."
White House staff may have tested positive for COVID-19
Posted at 11:50 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 23:50:20-05

WASHINGTON — Changes are coming to the way Americans pay and can receive at-home COVID-19 tests.

Starting Saturday, private insurers will cover up to eight at-home COVID tests per person each month, whether they are bought online or in stores.

Dr. Tom Inglesby, Senior Advisor for COVID Response at the United States Department of Health and Human Services, tells WRTV the Biden administration is working to have more test sites and increase access to testing, including at-home tests.

"We are hopeful that people will be able to get easier access to testing in the weeks ahead," he said. "We have gone from having about 25 million over the counter tests available per month in August to having 300 million over the counter tests available in December. We know because of the public demand for these tests that that's not enough and we're going to continue to drive the market and increase the availability of those tests."

Roche, whose North American headquarters are based in Indianapolis, was given emergency use authorization last month for its COVID-19 rapid test.

Inglesby says they are "very excited" about that EUA and the company worked closely with National Institute of Health scientists on the product. He says Roche is not providing tests to the U.S. market yet but they hope to have them available soon.

The website where Americans can request some of the 500 million rapid tests ordered by the federal government will be released soon.

"The contracts for these tests are hopefully all being finished up this week ... people will begin to start being able to order these tests hopefully within the next two weeks or sooner and tests will then begin to arrive in January," Inglesby said.

President Biden's federal vaccine mandate for employers of 100 or more employees went into effect on Monday.

"I think the administration is convinced that widespread vaccination is one of the most important tools, if not the most important tool in bringing this pandemic under control, so we're using the leverage we have to encourage vaccination," Inglesby said.

United Airlines had a vaccination mandate last year. On Tuesday, CEO Scott Kirby posted a letter on the company's website saying that over one United employee "on average *per week* was dying from COVID," before the company's vaccine mandate was imposed.

To schedule a COVID-19 test or vaccine in Indiana, go to ourshot.in.gov.