How New Yorkers Can Get Free At-Home Covid Tests and N95 Masks : Bushwick Daily


Allie Iliana Herrera


Since Jan. 15, insurers have been required to cover the cost of at-home Covid tests bought both online and in person. Whether you have health insurance through your job or if you pay for it directly, you can now walk directly into a pharmacy, or place an order online, and get an FDA-approved at-home Covid test for free. Either that, or you can keep the receipt and your insurance company will reimburse you.

Providers are required to pay you back at a rate of up to $12 per individual test or the cost of the test, if it is less than $12. The new program covers up to eight at-home tests per month.

While Biden’s new program does apply to those on state Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), people on Medicare are currently left out, due to an apparent lack of resources. So, Medicare patients, for the time being, have to seek out free tests in other ways. Medicare does currently cover rapid antigen and PCR testing at community testing sites. Additionally, all citizens can get up to four at-home Covid tests through a new government website, explained in more detail below.

For more information on insurance coverage and reimbursement, visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website

How to get free Covid tests online

On Jan. 19, the U.S. government launched COVIDtests.gov, a website where “every home in the U.S.” can now order four free at-home Covid tests. These tests provide results in 30 minutes or less.

Individuals fill out a form via USPS with an eligible U.S. shipping address. Orders are expected to arrive within seven to 12 days, though there have been instances of fast delivery.   

If there are any difficulties in accessing the internet, people can also order their free Covid testing kits by calling the CDC’s test kit fulfillment line at 800-232-0233. They are able to take calls 24 hours a day and seven days a week. 

If you are in need of a different type of test, you can find a health center near you using this interactive map or find a local community-based testing site using this search tool provided by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Bushwick Daily also provided a list of testing centers in the area in a previous article.  

Avoid being scammed!

With all these resources available, however, it’s important to order tests from federal websites and directly from retail providers to avoid being scammed. In a consumer alert released Jan. 25, New York State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) warned New Yorkers to be wary of those looking to take advantage of the free federal Covid-19 test program by posing as online providers of the tests, sending fake emails and texts that contain links meant to steal your personal information, and pitching testing information using robocalls, among other tactics. 

“The availability of free Covid-19 test kits from the federal government will help millions of Americans to have multiple tests on-hand as we continue to monitor and navigate the winter surge,” explained New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett in the consumer alert. “I urge New Yorkers to be vigilant in safeguarding their identity while they are protecting their health and always verify that a source is legitimate before providing personal information.”

Personal information, such as your social security number or credit card information, is not needed to order free Covid-19 tests from COVIDtests.gov. And, if purchasing online, be sure to order the tests from a trustworthy site.

When to expect free N95 masks

The first of the 400 million N95 face masks to be distributed to pharmacies and health centers across the United States, provided by the Strategic National Stockpile, have now arrived in the Midwest. Masks are expected to reach the opposite ends of the nation by the end of the week, with the program estimated to be in full-swing in February. Each adult can pick up up to three adult N95 masks, and the Biden administration has stated that higher quality face masks for children are in the works.

You can see the complete lists of pharmacies in partnership with the federal government’s vaccine program here, some of which are Hy-Vee, Meijer, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger.

This a step to combat the long lines at test centers and the inaccessibility of quality face masks. It’s now easier than ever to mask up and get tested to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.  


Featured image from the EMK Care Instagram account.

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