COVID tests still in short supply ahead of holiday gatherings
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Christmas and New Year’s gatherings are on the horizon and leaders are hoping to keep coronavirus cases at bay with widespread testing.
The state announced reimbursements for antigen tests for many Vermonters about two weeks ago. The problem is finding them.
Just days away from Christmas and New Year’s, Vermonters are gearing up for travel and gatherings with loved ones. That includes Kayla Becker of Worcester, who’s hosting family from California and New York.
“We’re very fortunate, last year we didn’t get to see them at all,” Becker said.
After Thanksgiving, she was able to track down rapid-antigen tests for her family.
She’s planning on getting tested before gathering with her guests and taking advantage of a new directive from the state, making rapid tests free for Vermonters.
A kit of two may run you near $30.
“Why not? It’s easy. If they’re free then they’ll be much more accessible for everyone. I think it’s wonderful,” Becker said.
It’s part of a push to make tests widely available. Right now, it’s available to 140,000 Vermonters on private insurance.
According to ave to do is show proof of insurance to your pharmacy and you walk away with a test kit. It’s up to the pharmacy to get reimbursed by your insurer.
“They don’t have to file a one-off claim. Pharmacies are set up to make these kinds of reimbursement claims, so it puts the burden on the pharmacist but it is a really important enhancement for Vermonters to have access to these tests without an upfront cost,” Vt. Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said.
Vermonters on federally funded Medicare will have to wait until Jan. 15. That’s when the Biden administration is expected to announce a similar change.
Pharmacists say supply is still the biggest challenge and demand is exceptionally high.
“I have a huge difficulty to actually get these tests for the public to buy. I think it’s encouraging that the cost could be reduced to zero for Vermonters so we will test more,” said Andy Miller, who owns the Brattleboro Pharmacy.
Leaders say most FDA-approved tests are covered under the state’s emergency rule, so you can buy them online, too. But if you do, you’ll have to file for reimbursement from your insurance provider.
Along with the antigen tests, you’re encouraged to get a PCR test, too. Those are more accurate and free for everyone right now.
For these tests to be the most effective, experts recommend you test a day or two ahead of your gathering and again on the day of the gathering.
Of course, tests only let you know if you have COVID.
Experts say if you want to avoid getting it to begin with, get vaccinated and boosted and keep those gatherings small to reduce your risk of exposure.
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