Testing has proven a powerful tool to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Testing regularly before and after gatherings or events is an essential way to help keep those at high-risk safe. President Biden recently announced that Covid-testing kits would be available to Americans for free as part of ongoing efforts to fight the pandemic. But how can you obtain these free in-home Covid tests or reimbursements?
How to get free in-home Covid tests
Although early reports on the Omicron variant indicate that it is less likely to result in severe symptoms or hospitalization, the fact that it is highly contagious is resulting in hospitals running out of space because more people are getting infected.
In order to empower Americans to reduce the spread, the U.S. government has made efforts to make tests more easily accessible. But how can you get tests?
If you have private health insurance
Those who have private health insurance can get reimbursed after purchasing a Covid testing kit. Kits are available at pharmacies, select retailers, or for purchase online. Beginning January 15 (and earlier, in some states), people who have health insurance can provide proof of payment to their insurer and receive reimbursement for the cost of the test.
Procedures of how to apply for reimbursement may differ between insurance companies, so you should contact your insurer before buying a testing kit. Guidelines are likely to follow a similar format to reimbursement for a visit to an onsite Covid testing facility.
If you do not have health insurance
Those without health insurance will be able to get free tests from community centers. The White House said the U.S. is increasing the number of tests planned for distribution to 50 million nationwide. You can check with your state or local health agency to find out where you can access tests.
Understanding the different types of free in-home Covid test kits
Covid testing kits typically require a sample collection via a nasal swab, throat swab, or saliva sample. Kits include everything you need to collect and prepare a sample, as well as the packaging to mail it to a designated laboratory if necessary.
Depending on the type of test you are taking, results may be processed in different ways. Knowing the differences between the different types of tests can take a lot of the anxiety out of self-testing on a regular basis.
Rapid antigen tests detect the proteins that encase Covid-19 viral cells, referred to as antigens. The advantage of rapid antigen tests is that they can produce results in 15 minutes or less without the need for lab processing.
The caveat of these tests is that they are less sensitive than PCR tests, which means they can give a false negative if given too soon after infection. As such, experts recommend tests be given 3-5 days after exposure to Covid-19. Rapid antigen tests have also shown further reduced accuracy in the detection of the Omicron variant. Despite this weaker detection ability, rapid antigen tests are an important tool in regularly screening for infection. It should be noted that they generally cost less as well.
If you are testing to comply with a participatory requirement, you should make sure rapid antigen test results will be accepted. Consumers should also check all boxes and make sure that tests requiring you to download an app are compatible with your devices before purchase.
Because rapid antigen tests are more likely to miss Covid-19 infections, many agencies and organizations require a negative PCR test for participation in travel, events, or gatherings.
PCR tests detect the RNA of Covid-19, which makes them more sensitive and thus more accurate than the rapid antigen test. The downside to the PCR test is that it requires lab processing.
PCR at-home kits have you prepare a sample and mail it to the laboratory. Once the laboratory has received the sample, processing can take up to 72 hours. Many kits make results accessible online to expedite availability.
While PCR testing kits may be more accurate, some agencies who require testing for participation in events or gatherings may not accept a negative result from a home test, instead requiring a test administered by healthcare professionals.
At-home testing kits vs. tests from medical professionals
At-home testing kits of any type are generally less effective at detecting Covid-19 or its variants. This is due to a number of factors, including:
- User error in sample collection or preparation is less likely to occur with a test administered by a professional
- Testing materials used by healthcare professionals are higher quality than those produced en masse for use by the general public
- Conditions PCR samples are exposed to during the shipment process can impact the accuracy of results
Choosing between at-home testing kits and getting tested by a medical professional is a personal decision that can vary depending on the situation. People who are at high risk of hospitalization or who have high-risk people in their social bubbles may feel more comfortable utilizing PCR testing from medical professionals to stay safe. Those who are in overall good health who wish to screen regularly may feel confident in utilizing rapid antigen tests.
Those who need tests that have both speed and high-accuracy may want to consider seeking out a healthcare provider who offers rapid PCR tests. These tests offer the high accuracy of regular PCR tests but don’t require lab processing. They can offer results in as little as 30 minutes.
For those especially vulnerable to Covid-19, you may wish to consider concierge at-home Covid testing. These services will send a trained health professional to your home to administer a Covid-19 test. This greatly reduces the chances of exposure to Covid in the process of getting tested.
What should I do if I test positive with a free in-home Covid test?
If you test positive with a free in-home Covid test, there are a few steps you should take to stay healthy and keep the people around you safe.
Stay home and avoid close contact with people to the extent possible. If close contact exposure cannot be avoided, make sure to take steps like wearing a mask and frequent hand washing.
As a refresher, here are some tips on how to isolate properly and keep others safe:
- Stay home unless you require medical attention
- Avoid contact with pets and wildlife – Cats, dogs, ferrets, and other animals can get Covid-19
- If you live with others
- To the greatest extent possible, stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom
- Wash your hands frequently
- Regularly disinfect doorknobs, light switches, countertops, and other high-touch areas
Contact your healthcare provider
Reach out to your doctor by phone or other electronic means to let them know about your positive test result. Your healthcare provider may instruct you to get PCR tested by a healthcare professional to confirm infection.
You should continue to isolate until your doctor tells you otherwise. Your healthcare provider can also let you know the best way to inform your local or state health department about your positive test result so that they can take the proper contact tracing steps to prevent infection from being spread further.
Letting people know they have been exposed to Covid-19 is extremely important to help stop the spread of the disease.
- If you have symptoms, you may have infected someone as early as 48 hours prior to when symptoms began.
- If you don’t have symptoms, you should notify anyone you were in close contact with in the two days prior to when you got tested.
- If you wish to remain anonymous, you can use www.tellyourcontacts.org.
Simple And Convenient COVID-19 Testing At Home With Drip Hydration
If you need to get tested for Covid-19, consider Drip Hydration for your testing needs. We are a mobile licensed healthcare provider trained to administer Covid-19 tests. You can make an appointment for one of our experts to visit your home and give you a Covid-19 test.
We are proud to offer a full range of testing options:
- RT-PCR test: The original PCR test and “gold standard” in Covid-19 testing accuracy. We will collect, prepare, and submit test samples to our lab. Results available in 24-48 hours.
- Rapid Antigen test: Results are processed by our healthcare professional onsite in approximately 15 minutes.
- Rapid Accula PCR test: This test offers the accuracy of the RT-PCR in 4 hours or less.
- Antibody test: Need to determine whether you had a previous case of Covid-19 from which you have recovered? Our nurse will perform a blood draw and safely get it to our lab for processing. Results in 1-3 days.
- Rapid Antibody test: This fingerstick test also detects previous infection, providing results in 15 minutes.
If you have multiple people in your household in need of testing, multiple appointments can be made for the same location and timeframe. This option is perfect for busy families who want to get everyone tested at once regardless of age. We offer progressive group discounts, and you can check with your insurer regarding partial reimbursement for our services.
Convenient and discreet healthcare that puts you first – reach out to Drip Hydration today!