Amid soaring cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, it's been nearly impossible for many Americans to find at-home test kits available online or in stores. Now your hunt for COVID-19 tests may get more expensive as well.
A price-control agreement between the White House and three major retailers has expired. As a result, the price for certain at-home tests is increasing by several dollars per kit.
In September, President Biden announced an agreement with Amazon, Kroger and Walmart in which the retailers would sell at-home coronavirus testing kits “at cost” — meaning they price the kits at minimal or no profit — for at least three months. The agreement is no longer in effect, and the retailers are beginning to raise the prices.
“It’s simply a matter of us returning to our pre-commitment retail pricing,” says Kroger spokesperson Kristal Howard.
At Kroger, for example, the price of a BinaxNOW at-home testing kit was $17 under the White House agreement. Now, the price on Kroger’s website is $23.99, a $6.99 increase per kit. The same at-home test at Walmart was previously listed online for $14 and costs $19.88 as of Wednesday — an increase of $5.88 per kit. (These kits were periodically listed as out of stock on Walmart's website or only available in select stores on Wednesday.)
Walmart says its pricing agreement was specifically for the BinaxNOW test, and that it kept the price of that test at $14 through the holidays, longer than the stipulations of the agreement.
As part of Kroger’s agreement, the grocery chain says it kept prices down for the BinaxNOW test as well as Quidel’s QuickVue at-home test for 100 days.
Amazon did not respond to our request for comment. Pricing information for the BinaxNOW test is not available on Amazon’s website, and the kit is currently out of stock there. (You can, however, find a separate at-home test by iHealth Labs for $17.98, similar to the “at cost” price of other retailers under the White House agreement. Note the kits might not be delivered until Jan. 20 at the earliest.)
Due to a surge in demand for at-home testing kits fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, Kroger and Walmart have set purchase limits for BinaxNOW test kits ordered online. Walmart says inventory may be limited online, though there are no purchase limits for tests bought in-store.
Similarly, Kroger set a one-per-order limit for the BinaxNOW test. Even that may be impossible: The kits are currently out of stock online. Alternatively, BinaxNOW kits may be available in-store at Kroger locations with a pharmacy. Non-pharmacy locations sell the QuickVue test, and certain locations are beginning to sell a PCR at-home collection test (which requires a sample to be shipped to a third-party lab for analysis).
Reimbursement and free at-home tests
No matter where you’re buying your at-home COVID-19 tests or how much you're paying, make sure to save the receipts. (It's also smart to make sure you're buying legitimate test kits — the Federal Trade Commission offered some guidance this week on avoiding fakes tests.)
President Biden said in a press briefing Tuesday that, as soon as next week, health insurers will be required to reimburse you for the cost of at-home testing.
“Next week, our requirement that your insurance company reimburse you for at-home tests takes effect,” Biden said at the briefing. “So, if you’re insured, you can buy the test and get paid for it.”
Beyond that, details on the reimbursement process are unclear.
In addition, the White House says it is launching a website where you can request at-home coronavirus tests to be shipped directly to your door, free of charge.
The website is expected to launch later this month soon after the White House receives its first shipment of tests from manufacturers. In total, the White House plans to purchase and distribute 500 million at-home COVID-19 test kits.
“When we have those deliveries in hand, we will put the website up, make it available so that people can order tests at that point in time,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday at a separate press briefing.