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On Your Side: How to get free at-home COVID-19 tests

Panama Pharmacy owner Kevin Duane says the process isn’t in place yet where over-the-counter tests can be paid for upfront through private insurers.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Starting this past weekend, the U.S. government began requiring private insurance companies to cover the cost of up to eight at-home COVID-19 test kits per person per month.

Since then, there’s been a rush to pharmacies on the First Coast for the over-the-counter at-home tests.

“I think for the most part, people are patient with us though," Panama Pharmacy owner Kevin Duane said. "They understand that it's new ... and I think most people are happy that there's just some kind of relief in sight."

Duane says the process isn’t in place yet where tests can be paid for upfront through private insurers.

“From the bigger insurers, we've received some very preliminary information about the mechanics of how it will work in theory," he explained. "But, they were very clear that, you know, formal contracting is to follow. So, as of right now, like there is no formal agreement with us at least.“

Duane thinks it will be a while before you can leave the pharmacy with an at-home test without swiping your card.

In the meantime, you’ll have to submit requests for reimbursement.

He says to be sure to keep your receipt and get the pharmacy’s tax ID and insurer number.

However, he strongly suggests you also check with your insurer about what all you’ll need before heading out to purchase tests.

“Because, I've already seen that different insurance companies have different requirements of what they're going to see before they'll pay you," Duane said. "For example, I saw one insurer that wants an affidavit signed by the patient saying that they're not using it for traveling or they're not using it... instead of their work paying for a test that's required as a part of their job.“

"I would hate to see a family of five go and buy a dozen or two dozen tests...only to find out that they're not eligible for repayment because they missed a step," he added.

Duane also advises not to go out and buy eight tests just because you can.

He says local pharmacies are already having a tough time receiving and keeping at-home-tests in stock.

“I think it's okay to have some, but the limits per month are very generous," Duane explained. "Don't take a test away from someone who may otherwise need them.”

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