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Biden to announce plan requiring health insurers to pay for at-home COVID tests

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President Biden will announce Thursday that health insurers must cover the full cost of in-home COVID-19 tests as part of a series of new actions to battle the coronavirus this winter.

"The President will announce that health insurers must cover 100 percent of the cost of at-home tests purchased by their members," a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday. "Private health insurers already cover the PCR tests people get at their doctor’s offices. With this action, they will cover at-home tests as well."

The official said that nearly 150 million Americans with private health insurance will be able to be reimbursed for the cost of at-home virus tests. The administration will also distribute 50 million at-home tests to community sites like health centers and rural clinics so that they are made available to hard-to-reach communities.

"The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury will issue guidance by January 15th to clarify that individuals who purchase OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests will be able to seek reimbursement from their group health plan or health insurance issuer and have insurance cover the cost during the public health emergency," a fact sheet provided by the White House says.

The Biden administration will not be retroactively covering at-home tests for Americans who may already have spent hundreds of dollars on those tests.

These steps are part of Biden's winter plan to battle COVID-19, after the Delta variant and now the Omicron variant have disrupted his previous efforts to "shut down the virus."

Biden's plan also details steps the administration will take to increase access to vaccine boosters, open family clinics where children can get vaccinated, and tighten travel restrictions by requiring international travelers to test negative within one day of their departure to the United States, regardless of vaccination status.

"We will continue to act aggressively. We will continue to follow the science. We will continue to prepare for all scenarios and work day and night to protect the American people, keep our schools open, keep our economy growing, and get this pandemic behind us," the official said.

Asked about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's vaccine mandate, which was suspended pending further litigation after a court order, the official said Biden will urge businesses to comply with his vaccine mandate voluntarily.

"We’re asking businesses to step forward and do what’s right to protect their workers and to protect their communities, which is to put in place some sort of vaccination requirement or testing requirement for the workplace," the official said.

""We know they work and we think it’s in the best interest of public health."

The Biden administration also committed to making COVID-19 treatment pills "equitably accessible to all Americans, regardless of their income or their zip code," as soon as the FDA approves such treatments.

The FDA's Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee on Tuesday voted 13-10 to recommend emergency use authorization for Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics' COVID-19 pill, molnupiravir. If authorization is granted, it would be the first oral antiviral treatment to fight COVID-19 available in capsule form.

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