White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Tuesday that the government’s website to request free Covid-19 tests is working as part of a “beta phase” before the government’s official website rolls out Wednesday morning.
Since an official launch wasn’t expected until Wednesday, a White House official said that this is only a beta phase to ensure the site runs smoothly.
“In line with website launch best practices, COVIDtests.gov is currently in its beta phase, which means the website is operating at a limited capacity prior to its official launch,” a White House official told CNN. “This is standard practice to handle troubleshooting and ensure a smooth official launch tomorrow as possible. We expect the website to be officially launched in the middle of tomorrow morning.”
Although the official said the site was only operating in a limited capacity, it is unclear how the initial phase of the site is limited. Once shipping information was entered online, the site instructed people that the tests would begin shipping in “late January” and that the United States Postal Service, which handles the deliveries, “will send only one set of 4 free at-home tests for COVID-19 to valid residential addresses.” “.
Late last week, administration officials said that once an order is placed through the site, the tests are expected to be shipped within seven to 12 days. Applications are limited to four tests per family, regardless of family size.
In addition to the website, the federal government is setting up a hotline to order tests. It is not clear when the hotline will be launched.
The president announced his plan to make half a billion rapid Covid-19 tests available to Americans by mail last month before Christmas, as the Omicron variant was rising across the United States.
Now, the variant accounts for nearly all US cases.
The Omicron variant caused 99.5% of new coronavirus cases in the United States last week, according to estimates released Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The United States currently averages 777,453 new Covid-19 cases and 1,797 new deaths per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Overall, the Biden administration has pledged to get 1 billion rapid tests — initially 500 million to distribute by mail to Americans for free, with another 500 million recently announced to meet future demand.
Free home tests from retailers
Most Americans with private insurance can buy home tests online or in stores and pay for them at the time of purchase or get reimbursed by filing a claim with their insurance company. The Biden administration effort, the program launched on Saturday, and only tests purchased from that date are eligible.
No prescriptions or doctors’ orders will be required, and tests will not be subject to participation or discounts. Insurance companies must pay up to eight tests per covered individual per month.
Insurance companies may establish a network of preferred stores, pharmacies, and online retailers where consumers can receive tests at no upfront cost. People can still buy tests outside of that network, but insurance companies only have to pay up to $12 per test.
Consumers should contact their insurance companies to see if they offer direct coverage or if claims should be submitted.
However, many Medicare enrollees are ineligible for free home tests from retailers. Traditional Medicare covers free Covid-19 testing that is performed in a laboratory at the request of a medical professional.
Those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans should check with their insurance companies to see if the costs of home tests will be covered.
However, Americans have a hard time finding tests to buy from retailers or order online. Dozens have written to CNN to complain about not being able to find the tests.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Sam Fossum and Ben Tinker and Virginia Langmaid contributed to this report.