HealthDay News — Medicare announced Monday that seniors can now walk into most drug stores and get a free over-the-counter COVID-19 test.

“For the first time in its history, Medicare is paying for an over-the-counter test,” Deputy Administrator Meena Seshamani, MD, director of the Center for Medicare, said in a news release on the announcement. “This is because COVID-19 testing is a critical part of our pandemic response. Combined with the free over-the-counter tests available through covidtests.gov, this initiative will significantly increase testing access for Americans most vulnerable to COVID-19.”

Now the 59 million Americans covered by Medicare Part B can get up to 8 free, at-home tests each month from any provider that offers them, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in the news release.

“This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests free of charge,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the CMS news release. “Since we took office, we have more than tripled the number of sites where people can get COVID-19 tests for free, and we’re also delivering close to 250 million at-home, rapid tests to send for free to Americans who need them. With today’s step, we are further expanding health insurance coverage of free over-the-counter tests to Medicare beneficiaries, including our nation’s elderly and people with disabilities.”

Participating providers in the program include Albertsons Companies Inc., Costco Pharmacy, CVS, Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Pharmacies, H-E-B Pharmacy, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Kroger Family of Pharmacies, Rite Aid Corp., Shop & Stop, Walgreens, and Walmart, the agency said.

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