You Can Get 4 More Free At-Home COVID Tests This Winter. Here’s How

A person takes a covid test at home.
Getty Images

As a difficult cold and flu season continues across the country, the Biden administration announced it will revive a program providing free at-home COVID-19 tests delivered through the U.S. Postal Service.

Due to limited funding and a depleted national stockpile, tests will be limited to a one-time order of four tests per household with shipping starting Dec. 19. This is part of a larger Winter Preparedness Plan by the Biden administration designed to combat rising rates of COVID-19. It includes expanded free testing options, as well as continued access to free treatments like Paxlovid and free vaccine clinics in communities throughout the U.S.

How to Get 4 More Free COVID Tests

The free over-the-counter rapid antigen tests the government is offering deliver results in 30 minutes. PCR tests aren’t available. Tests ship within seven to 12 days, according to covid.gov/tests, starting on Dec. 19, 2022.

Signing up for your free tests is incredibly simple. All you need to do is go to covid.gov/tests  and provide your name and address, plus an email address if you want shipping notifications. And that’s it.

The U.S. Postal Service will deliver the tests. You can order four free tests for each residential address, no matter how many people live there.

What About the 8 Free Tests Insurers Have to Provide?

Health insurance companies are still required to pay for eight home tests per month for each person covered by the plan. Depending on your health insurance, you may need to pay out of pocket for the tests and submit a receipt for reimbursement.

You can access free tests for your household using the federal government’s website regardless of whether you have health insurance. The website doesn’t ask for insurance information, and no upfront payment is required.

Learn more about how to get eight more free at-home COVID tests per person per month with your health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, or at local clinics.

What if I Can’t Wait for My Test?

If you can’t wait a week or two for your free tests and you have private insurance, you can pay for a home test and then get reimbursed for any upfront payment. Tests are now widely available at drugstores and pharmacies.

You can also access free and low-cost tests through a community testing center. To find a site, use HHS.gov’s testing center locator.

Pro Tip

It’s tempting to use remaining FSA or HSA funds to stockpile at-home COVID-19 tests, but FSA and HSA accounts specify funds can be used only for health-related expenses insurance doesn’t cover.

What if My COVID Tests Are Expired?

If you’ve got expired COVID tests stashed in the medicine cabinet from last season, don’t toss them in the trash yet. The Food and Drug Administration recently extended the expiration dates on many of the over-the-counter COVID-19 tests.

Check the FDA database to see if your tests are still OK to use.

Will Free At-Home COVID Tests Be Available Again Soon?

There’s no guarantee the program will resume even if COVID rates climb again in 2023. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated it would like to continue the initiative this winter, Congress didn’t approve the funding. The limited additional funding to provide another round of tests this month is coming from the Biden administration’s 2021 American Rescue Plan.

Kaz Weida is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.