Biden administration to stop sending free at-home COVID-19 tests Friday

Florida has reached the 7 million COVID-19 cases

Now there is a new concern: The free COVID-19 tests are coming to an end.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While COVID cases in Florida appear to be slowly dropping — Florida has hit a milestone that shows the pandemic is still going on.

Florida has now counted more than 7 million cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Florida still averages around 6,000 cases every day, but that number is an improvement. According to data, 6,352 new cases were reported this past Friday. The good news is that the current variant does not appear to be as deadly — with many people just reporting mild symptoms — and hospitalizations are down.

But now there is a new concern — the free COVID-19 tests are coming to an end.

The Biden administration said it will suspend its offer of free at-home rapid tests through Covid.gov/tests.

“Ordering through this program will be suspended on Friday, September 2, because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests,” the federal website said.

The U.S. Postal Service’s free test page also noted the impending halt to the program. This raises red flags for future booster shots and those who are not insured.

Since the start of the pandemic, the federal government has spent trillions of dollars on COVID-related issues — including billions for at-home tests, other testing, vaccinations, and treatments. So far, people haven’t had to pay out of pocket to get any of those, but soon, they could. The feds may stop footing the bill for those costs and pass it on to insurance carriers.

The question now is — what will happen with future booster shots and medications?

Insurance companies may have to pay, and there are about 30 million people in the U.S. who don’t have insurance. It’s estimated that around 12% of Jacksonville residents aren’t insured — which is about 100,000 people.

Chad Neilsen, UF Health Director of Infection Prevention spoke about the possible impact.

“So I think what that is really doing is making us face the reality that COVID is going to be here for a long time,” Neilsen said. “And we need to start treating it like the flu or any of these other respiratory illnesses. And I think by shifting the focus on funding for testing and treatments, to the insurance companies, it’s normalizing the fact that COVID is going to be here a little while, and it’s going to be another medical condition, like any other respiratory viral disease.”

News4JAX asked: Do you think that would have a problem for the uninsured? The people that that can’t afford the getting that booster, which we’re gonna have another booster coming up?

“Yeah, there certainly could be some knock-on effects in those who are uninsured or don’t have access to, you know, free health care or free,” Neilsen said. “Vaccines or treatment options to health departments will suffer for this. I certainly think that there’s a lot of channels that uninsured folks can still access to get these things.”

There’s currently no timeline from the federal government as to when these changes could happen, but we could learn more soon.

The health department said when it comes to COVID, they will be able to continue service to areas of town that may have uninsured residents. It has secured a federal grant through the CDC in order to do that in the near future.

WEIGH IN: We want to know: are you concerned about the cost of COVID tests and vaccines now that the government may stop paying for them? Let us know below.


About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.