This week, the Biden administration announced that individuals in the United States with private insurance can have the cost of home COVID-19 testing covered by their plans. While this could significantly improve affordability, and thus accessibility, for many people, the success of the policy depends in part on the availability of tests. In the US, the availability of tests is limited by a number of factors, as we have outlined here. We also investigated the availability of tests at home in September and November and while we found some improvement in November, overall testing was still hard to come by.
Now, in the week leading up to the private insurance coverage announcement, we’ve re-examined test availability. We searched for 10 tests across 6 home delivery retailer websites over an 8-day period (January 3, 2022 to January 10, 2022). In total, this provided 480 opportunities to buy a key (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 tests available for purchase online. Prices for tests ranged from $17.98 for two tests ($8.99 per test) to $49.99 for a single test. In most cases, of the limited tests that were available, test shipment dates were more than a week off. Additional details in Table 1. Full search data available here.
|Number of opportunities to purchase a test (10 tests X 6 retailers X 8 days)||480||100%|
|Tests available (times/%)||43||9%|
|Tests not available (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 administration, test availability remains limited. Until now, this has presented a challenge for consumers who want to buy at-home tests, especially when they are looking for a test without a long delivery time. Continued challenges with the availability of home testing could limit the scope of the new reimbursement policies and if the policy increases demand for these tests, the problem could worsen. As more tests are authorized and production hopefully increases, the shortages could decrease.