Assessing Online Availability of At-Home COVID-19 Tests Ahead of Private Insurance Reimbursement

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This week, the Biden Administration announced that individuals in the United States with private insurance would be able to get the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests covered by their plans. While this could significantly improve affordability, and therefore accessibility, for many people, the success of the policy rests in part on test availability. In the U.S. test availability has been constrained due to a number of factors, as we outlined here. We also examined at-home test availability in September and November and while we found some improvement by November, tests were generally still hard to come by.

Now, in the week leading up to the private insurance coverage announcement, we again examined test availability. We searched for 10 tests across 6 retailer websites for home delivery over an 8-day period (January 3, 2022 through January 10, 2022). In total, this provided 480 opportunities to buy a test (6 x 10 x 8). We found that tests were available less than 10% of the time. In addition, certain tests were never available and some retailers never had any tests available for online purchase. Prices for tests ranged from $17.98 for two tests ($8.99 per test) to $49.99 for a single test. In most cases, among the limited tests that were available, shipping dates for tests were over a week out. Additional details in Table 1. Full search data available here.

Number Percent
Number of opportunities to purchase a test (10 tests X 6 retailers X 8 days) 480 100%
Tests available (times/%) 43 9%
Tests unavailable (times/%) 437 91%
Price range $17.98 (2 test pack) on 7 occasions – $49.99 (1 test pack) on 5 occasions
Mode price $24.88 on 9 occasions
Tests never available in searches 4 (Abbott BinaxNow, Orasure InteliSwab, Ellume COVID-19 Home Test, Access Bio)
Retailers with no tests available in searches 3 (Target, CVS, Walgreens)

Overall, we find that despite efforts to increase test production by manufacturers and the administration, test availability remains limited. This has posed a challenge for consumers looking to purchase home tests to date, especially when looking for a test without a lengthy delivery timeline. Continued challenges with home test availability could limit the reach of the new reimbursement policy and if the policy drives additional demand for these tests, could exacerbate the problem. As more tests are authorized and production hopefully ramps up, shortages may ease.

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