CHICAGO — Starting Wednesday, the federal government’s Covid test website will go live.
The website COVIDTests.gov will provide tests at no cost, including no shipping fee, the White House announced Friday. The hyperlink will help each household across the country order four free at-home rapid tests. However, shipping won’t be immediate as delivery may take 7 to 12 days.
“We’re going to do everything that we can to meet the challenge, to get these packages into the hands of our customers,” Mack Julion, president of National Association of Letter Carriers Local, said.
Julion says postal workers are ready for the added deliveries, despite persistent staffing shortages.
“The postal service has been aggressively hiring, not aggressive enough, but we have more people on the workroom floor,” Julion said. “But again, with this latest variant, it’s having an impact on our workforce.”
But the new policy doesn’t benefit every American.
For starters, it only applies to people who have private health insurance. That leaves out uninsured people, an estimated 28 million or 8.6% of Americans.
It also doesn’t affect an even larger segment of the population: Americans 65 and older covered by Medicare. That’s 18.4% of Americans, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2020.
The omicron surge – has critics questioning why carriers didn’t implement a program of this scale sooner.
“We needed more tests during this surge and we didn’t have it and I think it really did hamper our ability as a country to manage this,” Dr. Ashish Jha, of Brown University School of Public Health, said on Fox News Sunday. “I don’t believe omicron is going to be the last wave we see. Having widespread testing available is going to make an enormous difference as we get beyond this surge and before we face the next one.”
Insurance companies are now required to cover the cost of at-home covid tests purchased over-the-counter. An individual can receive up to eight rapid tests per month. So a family of four on the same plan can receive up to 32. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois tells customers on its website that if they buy the test at an in-network pharmacy, they shouldn’t have to submit a separate claim.
“We are pulling out the stops on testing right now,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told ABC This Weel.
As postal workers prepare for the flood of shipments, Julion says, “we’ll be able to handle it.”