(In the video player above: Testing vending machines at Case Western Reserve University.)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans. The Biden administration announced the change on Monday as it seeks to cut costs and make testing for the virus more convenient amid mounting frustrations.

Under the new policy, first detailed in the AP, Americans will be able to either purchase home test kits for free as part of their insurance or submit receipts for the tests for reimbursement, up to the limit. monthly per person. A family of four, for example, could be reimbursed for up to 32 tests per month. PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a healthcare provider will continue to be fully covered by unlimited insurance.

President Joe Biden has been criticized during the holiday season for a shortage of rapid home tests as Americans travel to see their families amid the upsurge in cases of the more transmissible omicron variant. Now, the administration is working to make COVID-19 home testing more accessible, both by increasing supply and reducing costs.

Later this month, the federal government will launch a website to begin making 500 million home-based COVID-19 tests available by mail. The administration is also expanding emergency rapid test sites to areas with the highest increases in cases.

Tests covered by the insurer would significantly reduce costs for many Americans, and the administration hopes that removing a barrier to more regular home testing may help slow the spread of the virus, bring children back to life. school faster and helping people gather safely.

“This is all part of our overall strategy to accelerate access to easy-to-use and free home tests,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “By requiring private health plans to cover people’s home tests, we are further expanding the ability of Americans to get tests for free when they need them.”

Biden announced the federal requirement late last year, and it goes into effect Jan.15, but the administration has so far been silent on the details of the plan.

The administration tries to encourage private insurers to cover the tests in advance and without cumbersome reimbursement procedures. Insurance plans that work with pharmacies and retailers to cover the initial costs of testing will only be required to reimburse up to $ 12 per test if purchased from an off-grid retailer. Plans that don’t proactively move to build a drugstore network should cover the full retail price paid by the customer, which could exceed $ 12 per test.

A major group in the health insurance industry said insurers would carry out the administration’s order, but warned consumers it wouldn’t be as easy as flipping a switch.

“Health insurance providers will work as quickly as possible to implement these guidelines so as to limit confusion and challenges for consumers,” Matt Eyles, president of US health insurance plans, said in a statement. “While there will likely be issues early on, we will work with administration to resolve issues quickly as they arise. “

The group said it supports the provisions of the Biden administration’s plan to counter possible price hikes on tests.

Only tests purchased from Jan. 15 will need to be refunded, the administration said. Some insurers may choose to cover the costs of home tests purchased earlier, but they will not be required to.

Mina Bressler, mother of two and therapist in San Mateo, Calif., Was able to purchase rapid test kits online and shared them with a parent who works in the service industry and doesn’t have the time to ‘s sit in front of your computer every hour. refresh the Walmart page to see when tests are in stock.

“I gave it to him and his children went to school. It’s once and there’s a million, ”Bressler said.

“Just as the vaccines that have become available have really highlighted the unfairness of what is going on in this pandemic, I think testing is the new flashlight for that, because who is going online to hunt down Walmart? They are not the most vulnerable people in the county, ”added Bressler.

Americans on Medicare will not be able to be reimbursed for tests by the federal insurance plan, but the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans are required to fully cover the cost of home tests. Those who are not covered by an insurance plan can receive free tests through the next federal website or at some local community centers and pharmacies.