Free COVID tests will not be available after May 31

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The end of the US Covid public health emergency also means that the government will soon no longer offer free tests to households by mail. 

The popular offering will be available until the end of May, according to a press release this week from the Biden Administration outlining the transition of Covid measures. Since the online portal launched in January 2022, the program has distributed more than 750 million rapid antigen tests to over two-thirds of American households.

The public health emergency officially ends on Thursday. The government has stockpiled more than 600 million tests to meet demand if there is a future surge of Covid cases, according to the release. 

Households are eligible for four additional tests if the last order to a specific residential address was before Dec. 15, 2022. The Department of Health and Human Services urged prior participants of the program to check if their existing Covid test expiration dates have been extended before throwing them out.

The wind-down of the health emergency also affects Medicare beneficiaries, who won’t be able to get free tests unless they are ordered by a health provider. Medicaid, meanwhile, will continue to cover at-home and PCR tests until September 2024. Private insurance providers will decide their own policies, though the Department of Health and Human Services has encouraged insurers and employer health plan sponsors to continue covering the tests without requiring beneficiaries to pay out-of-pocket costs.

Free tests aren’t the only thing that will disappear as the US ends its emergency measures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop counting infection, transmission and community-level case numbers in its Covid Data Tracker because laboratories won’t be required to submit the figures. 

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