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COVID care coverage changing as public health emergency ends

During the pandemic, health insurance providers were required to cover the cost of up to eight at-home tests per month. That is no more.

INDIANAPOLIS — The COVID-19 public health emergency declaration ended Thursday, May 11, after more than three years. That means changes to the way you can get COVID care, and what it might cost you. 

Many people fell into a mindset during the pandemic that if we were getting a COVID test or vaccine, we could go anywhere at no cost. We might not even need to show our proof of health insurance. 

But the end of the public health emergency is bringing several changes.

COVID testing is no longer free. During the pandemic, health insurance providers were required to cover the cost of up to eight at-home tests a month. That is no more.

Health insurance providers can also now charge for a lab test.

"At-home COVID tests, they're not going to be free anymore,” said Louise Norris, HealthInsurance.org health policy analyst. “You're going to have to go to your local pharmacy and pay for them over the counter. PCR testing where it's done in a lab, your health plan will still cover it. But that doesn't mean they're going to fully pay for it. Whatever rules your health plan has, as far as lab work, they can make you pay a copay to go see your doctor. They can have your deductible applied for the lab work, and they can require you to stay in network."

You can still order free at-home COVID tests from the federal government, while supplies last.  

COVID vaccines are no longer free, either. But the cost should be covered by most health insurance plans without any copay.

But if you live in Indianapolis, the Marion County Public Health Department tells 13News that it will continue to offer free COVID testing and vaccines despite the end of the public health emergency.

The health department will continue offering free COVID vaccinations by appointment at the following locations: 

District Health Offices - Northwest District, Northeast District, South District, Eagledale Plaza (contact the location directly to make an appointment).

ACTION Health Center
2868 N. Pennsylvania St. (call 317-221-3400 for an appointment).

The health department will also continue to offer free COVID-19 vaccine walk-in clinics at these locations: 

College Avenue Branch Library 4180 N. College Ave.
Martindale-Brightwood Library Branch 2434 N. Sherman Drive

Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Wednesday: 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. 

Garfield Park Branch Library
2502 Shelby Street
Friday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 

IndyGo Julia M. Carson Transit Center
201 E. Washington Street
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 8:30 a.m.–4 p.m. 

Free COVID-19 walk-in testing is available through the Marion County Public Health Department: 

Johnson Building
3901 Meadows Drive
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Wednesday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. 

But COVID care is no longer free for most people.

"We all got used to a certain way of doing things during the public health emergency,” said Norris. “You don't want to get caught with an unexpected bill. The bottom line is check with your health plan. Don't assume anything. If you have questions about your specific coverage, check with your health plan, whether it's telehealth, whether it's where you need to go to get your vaccines." 

More information about the end of the federal Public Health Emergency declaration is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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