BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — President Biden is taking a new approach in the fight against the virus. The president wants to make COVID-19 tests more available, and it could mean taking your test at home.

The plan would take away yet another excuse for not getting tested, no more trying to find a test site and waiting in line. You can take your test in the comfort and privacy of home, and insurance would cover it.
But that is where it gets complicated.

“You will be able to test for free, in the comfort of your home, and have some peace of mind,” President Biden said.

The president makes it sound so easy, taking your COVID test at home, but to make that happen will likely be a lot easier said than done.

“And having them covered by your private insurance plans, available in thousands of locations, and available community health centers and other sites,” Biden said.

And that is where the president’s plan gets complicated — having those at-home COVID tests covered by insurance. He wants to make the COVID tests generally accessible to everyone, whether they are covered by insurance or not.

Tests administered at public sites, run by the state or county and are covered by taxpayers, said Donald Ingalls of Highmark Western New York.

“At those public sites, the state or the county were paying for those tests, and at doctors’ offices or other medical facilities the health insurance is covering that during the pandemic,” Ingalls told News 4.

But home tests, available at some stores and online, can cost anywhere from about $20 to more than $100. And Ingalls told us, health insurance companies generally won’t cover the cost without a prescription.

“Most insurers and employers don’t cover over-the-counter drugs or tests and this would be a change. So one of the things that agencies will have to deal with is how that will work,” Ingalls added.

But here’s the problem for insurance subscribers.

“Typically also, tests are ordered with a prescription and in this case, there would not be a prescription,” Ingalls said.

Ingalls told us Highmark Western New York, and other blue affiliates, are working with federal officials to craft the new regulations for implementing the president’s plan. They are looking to come up with a solution sometime in mid-January.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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