On May 11, 2023, the federal declared the COVID-19 public health emergency over, and with it, the Postal Service program that provided free at-home COVID tests for US residents. But though the free tests are no longer available, that doesn’t mean it’s now impossible to be tested for COVID without paying for it. But you will probably have to leave your house.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Test to Treat initiative, Health Resources & Services Administration health centers, and the CDC’s Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) program are all still providing free testing at thousands of locations all over the country. Here is information about each program and how to access care at a testing center near you.
How to get tested for COVID at a HRSA health center
The Health Resources and Services Administration funds nearly 1,400 health centers across the country that provide free COVID testing. To find the nearest HRSA health center, enter your location on the program’s locator site. Click your desired location, then follow the instructions for that clinic.
How to get tested for COVID through the ICATT program
Even though the state of emergency has ended, there are still 10,000 Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) sites operating in the US at pharmacies, commercial laboratory sites, and retail locations.
The focus of the program is providing testing for uninsured people who have been exposed to COVID or are symptomatic, but insured people won’t be turned away. If you have health insurance, you can still get tested at one of theses sites, but there may be a charge, depending on your insurer. To find ICATT locations near you, use the locator tool, then contact the relevant site for scheduling and any other information.
Getting tested (and treated) for COVID through the Test to Treat program
The Test to Treat initiative provides low or no cost COVID testing and treatment through pharmacy-based clinics, federally-funded health centers, long-term care facilities, and community-based sites. It also provides telehealth services at some locations.
Patients are either tested on site, or can bring in a results from a test from another testing site or an at-home test to receive treatment for COVID. If you have insurance, but it doesn’t cover COVID testing or treatment, you may be eligible for treatment through this program.
To find a Test to Treat location near you, visit the programs locator page and enter your zip code.
What kinds of COVID tests are available through these programs?
Because these programs are run through clinics, the kind of test available depend on where you take it—you might get to choose, you might not. Home tests are usually RATs (rapid antigen tests), while a clinic may give you a molecular PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. PCR tests are able to pick up the virus earlier, often before you start showing symptoms, and are less likely to show false negatives. (Here is some information on the difference between different types of COVID tests.)
What states provide residents with COVID testing?
There are many state and local programs that still offer testing for COVID for free. For instance, California’s Medi Cal programs provides eight free at-home tests per month for members. Check your state health department website for details about available programs in your area.
Are COVID tests free if you have insurance?
If you have private health insurance, your insurer is no longer required to reimburse you for COVID tests or treatment, but most major medical health plans still cover COVID treatment and lab-based testing. That said, you’ll probably have to cover and co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-network charges, just as you would for any kind of medical treatment.