On December 2, 2021, President Biden announced that federal agencies would soon issue guidance regarding the availability of coverage/reimbursement from group health plans and health insurance carriers for individuals who purchase over the counter, at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests (“OTC COVID-19 tests”).  Accordingly, on January 10, 2022, the agencies released “FAQs About Affordable Care Act Implementation Part 51, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) Implementation” which, among other things, requires group health plans and health insurance carriers to reimburse participants, beneficiaries, or enrollees (“Individuals”) for no less than eight (8) OTC COVID-19 tests per calendar month beginning on January 15, 2022 (i.e., for tests purchased on or after January 15, 2022).

Background

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the FFCRA requires group health plans (self-funded, fully-insured, grandfathered, and non-grandfathered plans, but not excepted benefits such as dental or vision) and health insurance issuers (“Plans and Carriers”) to cover testing or certain other items or services intended to diagnose COVID-19 without cost sharing (deductibles, copays, or coinsurance), prior authorization, or other medical management requirements.  It also permits the agencies to implement the FFCRA through sub-regulatory guidance, program instruction, or otherwise.  The CARES Act expanded the FFCRA to, among other things, include a broader range of reimbursable COVID-19 diagnostic items and services that must be covered without cost-sharing, prior authorization, or medical management during the public health emergency.

In 2020, the agencies implemented several FAQs intended to serve as statements of policy to implement the above-referenced requirements under the FFCRA and CARES Act.  Since that time, the FDA has authorized at-home OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests that individuals can self-administer and self-read to diagnose COVID-19.  Accordingly, per the agencies, the FAQs issued on January 10, 2022 are intended to address both the FDAs approval of at-home OTC COVID-19 tests and the President’s request for additional guidance on group health plan coverage for these tests to address the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.

 

FAQ Guidance

Pursuant to the FAQs, Plans and Carriers must cover OTC COVID-19 tests that meet the criteria specified under the FFCRA even if they are not ordered by a health care professional, and must cover such tests without imposing cost-sharing, prior authorization, or medical management requirements.  This is so even if there is no order from a health p