From accuracy to availability to insurance, various hurdles face at-home rapid COVID-19 tests

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – At-home COVID-19 tests will soon be free through insurance coverage, but major companies have yet to announce how people can get their money back for the tests.

The Biden Administration is trying to make at-home tests easier to come by and starting this weekend, insurance companies must cover the cost of at-home COVID tests or reimburse their members for any bought on or after Jan. 15.

The federal government is urging companies to create a network of preferred pharmacies for the tests but those companies have not detailed the best way for members to apply online or by mail.

A spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina sent CBS 17 a statement saying:

“COVID-19 testing is critical at this time, and we are committed to supporting affordable and equitable access to testing options. Since the start of the pandemic, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) has fully covered COVID-19 tests that have been approved or received emergency use authorization (EUA) by the FDA when ordered by a provider. We are working quickly to determine the best way to cover over-the-counter tests for our members. “

Thomas Denny with the Duke Human Vaccine Institute said the “gold standard” for testing is still a lab-run PCR test. Denny said people can’t fully trust a negative at-home test the first time around, especially early in the illness.

“At that point, you may test negative on one of these antigen assays and if you were to test PCR at that time, you’d be positive and that’s just the limitation of the technology,” Denny said.

Denny said PCR tests are about 15 to 20 percent more sensitive, but added that any test is better than no test.

“If you’re having symptoms and you test and you’re negative on one of the at-home tests, these antigen strips, be cautious,” Denny said.

Plus, over-the-counter tests are on the honor system to report a positive result to health officials. They are not included in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 case count.

“I think we are undercounting and underestimating all of that,” Denny said. “In general, I would say our numbers are much higher than what we’re tracking right now.”

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