The federal government should fund free at-home COVID-19 testing kits for New Yorkers to help stem the ongoing rise in infections and the emergence of the new Omicron variant, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday.
“While many portions of the country are waiting for the omicron variant to arrive, New York already has cases—but this doesn’t mean we should panic. It means we should be planning,” Schumer said in a Dec. 5 release.
Free self-testing will be “key” to controlling the new variant, according to the New York Democrat, as the more new contagious strain has been detected in eight state residents — seven in New York City and one on Long Island — as of Saturday, Dec. 4.
“You see, a key to controlling Omicron is the at-home test, where you can swab your own nose, follow simple steps, determine if you have COVID, and take the right steps thereafter,” the pol said. “Right now, these at-home tests are pretty affordable across the country, but they’re not free, but they should be.”
Currently, over-the-counter self-test kits in packs of two go for about $15-$30.
The senator said the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should use money from the $350 billion American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in March, which earmarked funds specifically to support COVID-19 testing.
HHS should send the self-swab kits to New York’s more than 70 federally-supported community health centers to distribute to New Yorkers at no cost at the point of service.
The White House on Thursday announced that private health insurers will have to reimburse patients for self-testing kits starting in the new year and that the federal government will make about 50 million of them available for free for the uninsured.
But that means Americans with insurance will have to contact their insurance companies to get the money back, unlike other countries where governments have purchased the tests directly and provided them at low or no cost to encourage more testing.