Bustos Pushes For Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests For Servicemembers and Their Families

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) joined her colleagues on a letter to the Department of Defense urging Secretary Lloyd Austin to make at-home COVID-19 tests available to service members and their families at no cost and without unnecessary medical requirements. In the letter, the Members encourage the Department of Defense to provide the more than 9.6 million TRICARE beneficiaries with the same access to at-home tests afforded to other Americans.

“At this time, at-home COVID-19 tests are not a TRICARE-covered benefit and are not reimbursable unless it is ordered by a TRICARE-authorized provider or a provider at a military hospital or clinic,” the Members wrote. “We urge the Department of Defense to include at-home tests as a TRICARE-covered benefit under your current authority, offering those who served and their families the same COVID-19 risk reduction measures the Biden Administration has provided to those covered under private insurance and Medicare.”

Bustos joined Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Susan Wild (PA-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jim Cooper (TN-05), Angie Craig (MN-02), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Robin L. Kelly (IL-02), and Mikie Sherill (NJ-11) in sending the letter. 

The full letter can be found here and below.

Dear Secretary of Defense Austin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Smith,

Thank you for your leadership in ensuring that servicemembers, military retirees, and their families have access to critical health care and support during the COVID-19 pandemic. As our communities continue to take precautions to stay safe during both the Delta and highly transmissible Omicron surge, it is critical that Americans have equitable access to testing for COVID-19. 

As of January 15, 2022, private insurers are required to cover over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic tests that have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and recently the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that seniors in traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage would also be able to access up to eight over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month at no cost to beneficiaries. However, at this time, at-home COVID-19 tests are not a TRICARE-covered benefit and are not reimbursable unless it is ordered by a TRICARE-authorized provider or a provider at a military hospital or clinic.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend at-home tests if at the onset of symptoms, at least five days after coming in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or if you are gathering indoors with a group of people who are at risk of severe disease or unvaccinated.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA; P.L. 116- 127), TRICARE is required to cover COVID testing with no cost-sharing for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. We urge the Department of Defense to include at-home tests as a TRICARE-covered benefit under your current authority, offering those who served and their families the same COVID-19 risk reduction measures the Biden Administration has provided to those covered under private insurance and Medicare. 

In order to protect all Americans from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage the Department of Defense provide the 9.6 million TRICARE beneficiaries the same access to at-home tests with no cost-sharing or medical management requirements afforded to other Americans. Testing is a critical component to protecting the health of our communities, and we thank you for your attention to this matter.

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