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White House Plans to Distribute 500M Additional Rapid COVID-19 Tests

NEW YORK – President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that the White House will procure an additional 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests to distribute for free to people across the US.

The news follows a December announcement that the White House would send Americans 500 million free rapid tests starting this month, in light of the Omicron surge. Delivery of the original tests to the US government was expected to begin this week, with the first of those tests distributed by the end of January. 

The White House will set up a system, including a new website, to get the tests out. Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, noted in a previous press briefing that the original 500 million tests would be newly manufactured, not ones that have already been delivered to pharmacies or other retail settings.

In Thursday's announcement, Biden also said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would continue to set up in-person COVID-19 testing sites, although he did not specify where they'd be located.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that up to eight over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests will be reimbursed by private payors per covered individual per month. There is no limit on the number of tests that are covered if they are ordered or administered by a healthcare professional.

The administration is also incentivizing insurers to set up programs allowing beneficiaries to get at-home tests from preferred pharmacies, retailers, or other organizations with no out-of-pocket cost. If tests are acquired outside of that network, payors are still required to reimburse tests for up to $12 per test.