Here's how to get reimbursed for an at-home COVID-19 test starting Jan. 15

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Private health insurance companies will be required to help cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests starting Saturday, Jan. 15.

Americans who are privately insured can get a reimbursement for eight at-home COVID-19 tests per family member per month.

"This applies more for the group insurance, employer-based insurance population," J.J. Kravit, vice president of FHK Insurance, said.

Kravit said right now, this does not apply to people on Medicare. But some plans do cover at least one test a month.

"It's the kind of thing you want to check with your Medicare Advantage company," Kravit said. "Half the insurance companies are telling me this has nothing to do with Medicare and the other half are saying 'Yeah, we'll provide some at-home coverage and are still figuring stuff out. I have a good feeling these companies will step up to the plate and provide some ease of access."

Private insurers are encouraged to make the at-home tests available at no cost by setting up a network of preferred retailers. If you buy a test outside your network, you can still get reimbursed $12 per test. Take a picture of both your receipt and test.

"You would ultimately want to submit the claim, your proof of payment, make sure it's an FDA-approved test and submit it to the insurance company," Kravit said. "Don't bank on every single penny being reimbursed, especially at first."

Because the start date for this program is Jan. 15, any at-home test bought before then is not required to be covered.

"Usually the effective date is the start date of these policies. When they say this starts Jan. 15, the insurance companies are pretty good about starting on that day or after," Kravit said.

State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program are also required to cover the full cost of at-home tests. 

"The Medicaid and CHIP are for the low-income and disabled. That is new for them that they will be able to have reimbursement for these at-home tests," Kravit said. "It might take 60-90 days for a reimbursement. These companies are very big but for that low-income population...a household of four and eight tests per person per month...that can add up. That's a big deal. I wish there was a lever to make the reimbursement more real time." 

While people on Medicare are not able to seek reimbursement for at-home tests, you can instead order one for free through the federal government. The government will send out 500 million at-home test kits. You can order one through the forthcoming government website.

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