U.S. Pharmacies Are Now Charging For Travel Related Covid Testing As Government Subsidies Have Ended On July 1, 2022
For the past two years pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and others have been offering Covid testing services for free to the public which was in turn paid for by the federal government but this has now ended.
As of July 1, 2022 customers at such stores will be required to verify medical necessity in order to receive no-cost COVID-19 testing and travel is no longer a valid reason to waive the charges.
With most countries now having scrapped the testing requirement prior to arrival this has taken a big burden off travelers, yet for some itineraries such as cruises or countries such as Japan or Korea testing is still required and it just got more expensive to get it done.
I have previously written about my experience getting tests done at Walgreens in Las Vegas prior to my cruise:
My Experience With Covid Rapid Testing At Walgreens Las Vegas For An Upcoming Cruise
The experience at Walmart with their Drive Through option was very good. I had another testing experience in Las Vegas at the CVS Minute Clinic back in May and it was a disaster.
Back then the nurse there already mentioned that the testing system which was then funded by the federal government would soon come to an end and they’re expecting much less people to come in by then.
The Walgreens website has now been updated to reflect just that:
In some cases, your COVID-19 test may be available at no cost to you.* However, due to recent changes to the federal eligibility criteria, beginning July 1 patients will be required to verify medical necessity in order to receive no-cost COVID-19 testing, either through their health plan or through a federal program, if uninsured. Medical necessity includes people who are symptomatic, have a high-risk condition, are pregnant, or have had a recent exposure to a confirmed positive COVID-19 case.
If you don’t meet medical necessity guidelines, payment may be due at the time of your drive-thru COVID-19 testing appointment. If you’d like an at-home testing option that may be covered by your insurance, we recommend checking with your insurance provider for details.
* You will not have out-of-pocket costs if you meet the criteria for no-cost testing through your insurance or a government-funded program. You should contact your insurer before scheduling to confirm the test meets coverage criteria. You may be billed by Walgreens and, if applicable, the laboratory for up to the full price of the test if your insurance denies coverage or you don’t meet eligibility criteria for government no-cost testing programs.
It was just a matter of time for this to happen and just imagine how many billions of dollars the government paid to these facilities to do all the testing over the last two years.
On the graphic outlining the cost, Walgreens shows it as follows:
Both an Antigen Test and a PCR test will now be charged at $128.99 which is absolutely crazy in international comparison. Is this how much they got reimbursed by the government for each test over the past two years??
Either way, this is now the price if you need it for travel. It says that people with medical necessity (including those who are symptomatic, have a high-risk condition, are pregnant, or have had recent exposure to a confirmed positive COVID-19 case) can still receive testing for free.
Quite frankly the definition is (purposely, I guess) so broad that pretty much anyone falls under these categories. Slight headache, meeting random people who have Covid (pretty much a given every time one goes to a supermarket), or being obese/overweight… you get the picture.
Other than that I was very satisfied with the Abbott eMed tests that can be completed at home with a video proctor:
My Positive Experience Using The Abbott BinaxNOW Telehealth Test For U.S. Bound Flights and Cruises
These test kits can still be ordered through various vendors at $25-30 a piece and are extremely convenient in cases where an Antigen test is sufficient.
Certain states and counties might also offer free testing so it’s a good idea to stay up to date with local options at your place of residence or wherever the trip originates from.
Generally speaking, this was all extremely well organized and very generously so as far as the U.S. is concerned. Having spent a lot of time in other countries since 2020 dealing with testing in the U.S. was the best experience out of all of these places. It came at a heavy price though, all the money the federal government spent/printed as part of Covid relief is part of the problem we’re in right now.
It’s right, if not way overdue to stop the free tests for anyone who uses it for traveling or randomly without sound reason. I have friends who got themselves tested every second day just because they could and it was free (to them) while the government sent hundreds of millions to CVS, Walgreens et al for their little joyrides.
Due to the U.S. federal government ending the general subsidy to supply free covid testing to people nationwide (unless medically required) travelers might find themselves in a spot where they now have to pay for their PCR/Antigen tests again unless they come up with a reason as described why the test should be provided for them free of charge.
The prices pharmacies such as Walgreens charge now are pretty steep. Their website lists a test for $128.99 which is pretty crazy. I’ve seen these much cheaper other outlets, especially overseas. Most airports still offer a testing station as well but pricing obviously varies. Antigen tests are usually cheap and results are fast while PCR takes a long time or can be fast-tracked against a hefty fee.
If your travel requires a test you could either try an Antigen Test Kit at home through a proctored service or find a local solution after doing some homework where to find the best price.