COVID tests will now cost $10 to $150. Will we still swab?

Many Long Islanders accustomed to free COVID-19 testing will have to pay more than $10 for home kits, and prices for tests at doctors\’ offices are expected to average between $130 and $150, leading experts to predict that some may stop getting tested.

The May 11 deadline of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency meant that the government could no longer require insurance companies to pay for up to eight home tests per month for each person covered by a policy, and the federal government should terminate your free mail-in test distribution after Wednesday.

The insurance mandate for the free outpatient administration of PCRs and rapid tests, at places such as doctor\’s offices and emergency rooms, has also expired. The cost of obtaining a rapid, or antigen, test will now typically be around $130, including expenses for office visits, and typical PCR test costs are estimated at $150, according to a recent analysis by KFF, a policy San Francisco-based non-profit healthcare.

For many, many Americans, it\’s very difficult to add this as an extra expense, said Mara Aspinall, a professor at Arizona State University. Credits: Monica Lovato

COVID-19 is now more like other diseases, where consumers can face high bills, unexpected costs and difficult choices about whether to forgo treatment or testing because it\’s too expensive, said Jennifer Kates, senior vice president and director of policy. global health and HIV campaign for KFF, formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation.


  • Most COVID-19 tests are no longer available they are free, due to changes in federal regulations. An average home rapid test costs $11, and a rapid test or PCR in outpatient settings costs $130-$150, according to one analysis.
  • Medicaid still covers tests, and there are some government funded health centers with free testing. But many insurance companies no longer pay for home testing and lab testing may have copays or deductible payments.
  • Experts fear the end of free trials for many Americans it means more people will unknowingly spread the coronavirus, and some may become ill because they didn\’t seek treatment soon enough.

Overall, we are returning to the US healthcare system as we knew it, he said. Only, with COVID, the cost and access had been protected due to the emergency. And now many of those protections have ended or will end.

Those who can afford the tests will continue testing, predicted Mara Aspinall, a practice professor and biomedical diagnostics expert at Arizona State University.

For a family of four, for many, many Americans, it\’s very difficult to add this up as an extra expense, Aspinall said.

The median price for a rapid at-home test was $11 last month, a KFF analysis found.

Will the Long Islanders continue testing?

In interviews, Long Islanders differed on whether they would continue to test.

Dave Ali, 47, of Roslyn, said he would pay to get tested.

I have family at home and I have kids at home, she said. I would definitely know if I\’m exposed to anything so I don\’t make them sick.

But, Ali said, for some people, $11 is a lot to pay for a COVID test. Some people would look at it and say, OK, I make a decent salary. That\’s $11. But, for some families, that would mean dinner or not.

A nationwide survey last year found that nearly a quarter of those who received free tests from the federal government likely would never have been tested otherwise, and that black respondents were especially unlikely not to use other home testing kits. , the researchers wrote in an April article in the federal government\’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Jayla Thomas, 18, of Uniondale, said she has used free rapid home tests in the past whenever she felt unwell.

But, when he said tests now cost an average of $11, Thomas, a freshman at St. Johns University, said it\’s not worth getting tested, because the result would likely be negative anyway.

It should still be free, he said. If not, your insurance should find a way to cover it.

Test options

A Newsday review of coverage from several large insurance companies found that almost none now provide home tests for free, and one that still hasn\’t said how long that program will last. They all say that, depending on your policy and deductible, tests done in outpatient settings such as doctor\’s offices may include an upfront payment or a deductible payment.

Kates said it\’s unclear how many insurers will continue to cover testing now that they\’re not required to.

There are still a few places Long Islanders can get free home testing.

Medicaid and the Children\’s Health Insurance Program, as well as the Essential Plan for low-income New Yorkers who don\’t qualify for Medicaid, will offer free testing through at least September 2024, state Health Department spokeswoman Danielle DeSouza said.

Uninsured people can also get tested in Long Island locations under a federal program, but only if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms.

Sun River Health, which operates 11 federally qualified health centers in Suffolk that serve many uninsured and underinsured people, still distributes four free, federally-provided home tests to anyone who requests them, regardless of their income level, Roberta said. Kelly, Sun Rivers Chief Nursing Director. Sun River also offers free PCR testing, while federal supplies last.

Harmony Healthcare, a counterpart to Sun Rivers in Nassau, administers testing on site, billing insurance companies for those who have coverage, said David Nemiroff, president and CEO of Harmonys.

We are doing very little testing,” he said. Where we made hundreds in one day, we\’re lucky now if we make 50 in one week.

David Nemiroff, President and CEO of Family Health Centers in Hempstead. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Sales of the COVID test plummeted

Even before the costs went into effect, sales of COVID-19 tests had plummeted, according to data from NIQ, a Chicago-based data and analytics company. There were 802 million bench test sales in Q1 2022, falling to 173 million in Q1 this year.

Aspinall said this is in part because there are fewer cases and deaths from COVID-19, and businesses, health care facilities and others who used to require testing are no longer doing so. But it\’s also because most Americans don\’t think about COVID-19 as much as they used to, he said.

It was constantly on people\’s minds and the numbers were high,” he said. Fortunately, we are now in a very different phase.

Even so, he said, testing is vital to help protect people for whom COVID-19 remains a serious potential danger, such as older people and those with compromised immune systems.

Anyone who unknowingly has COVID-19 could be putting others at risk, said Dr. Martine Hackett, director of public health programs at Hofstra University. Credit: Howard Simmons

Those who opt out of testing could become more seriously ill than they would have become ill if they had been tested and had access to treatment, said Martine Hackett, director of public health programs at Hofstra University.

And anyone who unknowingly has COVID-19 could be putting others at risk, he said.

It means they could spread it without realizing it, he said.

Testing costs aren\’t the only new COVID-19 expense residents will face.

The federal government is expected to run out of its supply of Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment for those at highest risk of severe COVID-19 that the government has been providing free of charge, by the end of the year, Kates said.

Pfizer has not released a market cost Kates said it will likely be higher than the $530 per course of treatment the government has paid and company spokeswoman Kit Longley said in a statement that out-of-pocket costs for patients will vary and are determined by insurers.

Kates said that, as with other drugs, some people who can be helped by Paxlovid may choose not to pay for it, and this has consequences for their health.

The government could also run out of free vaccines, or federal authorities could recommend a new vaccine that is better able to combat the ever-evolving virus. But even when vaccines go on the private market, they\’ll generally be free, Kates said. Insurance companies are required to pay for any COVID-19 vaccine and some other vaccines administered over the network, she said. And a federal program currently provides vaccines to the uninsured.


  • The expiration date of your COVID-19 home test may have been extended. To check, go to
  • If your test is really timed out, don\’t use it, advises the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. COVID-19 tests and the parts they are made from can degrade or break over time. For this reason, expired test kits may provide inaccurate or invalid test results.

David Olson covers health care. He has worked at Newsday since 2015 and previously covered immigration, multicultural issues and religion at The Press-Enterprise in Southern California.

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