Insurers: Saturday is too soon to meet goals on reimbursing rapid COVID-19 tests

While the White House says its program to reimburse consumers for the cost of rapid COVID-19 tests will begin on Saturday, some insurance companies say it will likely take weeks to get such a program up and running, The New York Times reported Friday.

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The reason, according to some insurers, is the lack of a billing code that other medicines or tests have that enables companies to process the cost of those items. As the story points out, health plans rarely process retail cash register receipts, instead using billing codes to process payments.

“This is taking things back to the olden days, where you’ll have a person throwing all these paper slips in a shoebox, and eventually stuffing it into an envelope and sending it off to a health insurer to decipher,” Ceci Connolly, president and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, told the Times.

Alliance of Community Health plans represents smaller, nonprofit insurers.

“It is going to be exceedingly difficult for most health plans to implement this in four days,” she said of Biden’s announcement of the program on Monday.

According to the administration, the program requires insurance companies to pay for eight over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests per person, per month.

The White House, in a statement to The New York Times on Friday, encouraged those who purchased the tests to hold on to receipts for the tests.

“If Americans are charged upfront, it is important that they keep their receipts and be prepared to submit them for reimbursement. The most important thing is that starting Saturday those tests are covered free of charge.”

Others have suggested your either keep the box the tests come in or take a photo of the bar code on the box.

Bob Wanovich, a vice president at Highmark Health, a nonprofit plan in Pennsylvania, said Highmark Health plans to create a network of “preferred” locations to get the tests, but will not have it ready by Saturday.

“The guidance came out Monday, and we started working on it immediately, but I don’t have a mechanism ready to go, Day 1, where you don’t have to pay upfront,” Wanovich told the Times.

Click here to see the other requirements for the program and which tests will be eligible to be reimbursed.