Here’s how you can get free COVID tests at a pharmacy 

Some major pharmacies have started treating at-home tests just like any other prescription.

A positive Covid-19 at home test is displayed on May 02, 2022 in San Anselmo, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Not too many months ago, people looking for a little peace of mind by using at-home tests had to search empty store shelves and pay steep prices for COVID-19 antigen tests, but now the process is simpler for most Massachusetts residents: just walk into a pharmacy and show your insurance card. 

In January, a federal rule made it so prescription coverage in medical insurance plans should cover the cost of up to eight rapid tests per person each month. Originally, people could purchase tests out-of-pocket, and then submit receipts for reimbursement, a process that was sometimes confusing and work intensive. In fact, in the first weeks of that program, very few people filed for reimbursement, according to reporting by WBUR


But now the process is simpler. Some major pharmacies, like CVS, have started processing tests just like any other prescription. 

According to Matthew Blanchette, a spokesperson from CVS, people with participating insurance plans can get tests at no up-front cost by visiting the pharmacy and showing their benefit identification cards. 

“We ask patients to remember to bring their pharmacy benefit ID card(s). Look for the cards that contain the RX BIN and RX PCN information,” Blanchette wrote. 

At CVS in particular, customers with insurance have a number of options for how to get free tests: picking up at the pharmacy counter with an insurance card, ordering online and picking up in store, or ordering online and having them delivered. 

Of course, processes differ between health plans, and Blanchette recommended people reach out to their insurance provider to confirm the coverage policy and claims submission process. Some plans may only allow the patient to submit a claim for reimbursement.

According to a spokesperson from the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, MassHealth recipients are also eligible to receive 8 at-home tests per member each month. This covers Medicare and Medicaid recipients and members can walk into pharmacies and show their MassHealth cards to receive tests. 


All member insurance companies in the Massachusetts Association of Health plans allow customers to get rapid tests for free, according to WGBH.

Why use at-home tests?

At-home tests are a crucial part of COVID management, Cassandra Pierre, the associate hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center told They allow people to get a snapshot of their COVID status much quicker than PCR tests, which have long been the gold standard for COVID-19 testing

“Honestly, as a consequence of living in society being out and about these days, it’s just part of our protective toolkit,” Cassandra Pierre, the associate hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center. “I would say that this is probably, if we’re thinking about what we have in our arsenal, what we have at home, probably even more important than hand sanitizer.”

The current national system is not without flaws though, Pierre said, highlighting that tests are not free for uninsured people. Pierre said that this is a problem because oftentimes the uninsured population is on the more vulnerable side, maybe they work jobs that carry a higher level of COVID risk or they have high risk medical conditions. 

Another problem is that of accessibility for those who do have access to the tests. While for the most part, the tests are simple to perform, Pierre said, sometimes the test require many very specific steps which may not be accessible to people whose first language isn’t English or who have vision issues. 


One resource that can help address that is a series of videos from the Boston Public Health Commission that walk through how to take the iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Tests in English, Hatian Creole, and Spanish

Pierre also encouraged people to take advantage of the current availability of testing and the eight tests a month covered by insurance. 

“It’s important just really to stock up at this point. We all remember last fall at last winter when people were out of test kits and they were really expensive online,” Pierre said. “Get all you can get from the insurance company. This is like one of the few free options and it might be worth stocking up.”

There are a multitude of situations in which someone might use an at-home test, Pierre said, but she recommended using them after a known or probable exposure and before visiting people who are especially at risk from COVID-19.


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