Free home COVID tests, delivered by mail, expiring this week

Redondo Beach, CA - January 06: Boxes of iHealth COVID-19 antigen rapid test kits, provided by the state of California, are ready for parents to pick up at Tulita Elementary School as positive cases of COVID-19 increase by the spread of the Omicron strain, in Redondo Beach, CA, Thursday, January 6, 2022. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Boxes of iHealth rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits, provided by the state of California, are ready for parents to pick up at Tulita Elementary School in Redondo Beach on Jan. 6. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

A nationwide program that allowed residents to order batches of free home coronavirus tests through the U.S. Postal Service ends this week, leaving Californians a few days to secure any final shipments.

The suspension of the supply, which the website says “because Congress has not provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s inventory,” will remove a convenient testing option, even as federal officials continue to tout its importance and say residents should use multiple kits to test for coronavirus infection.

The action does not appear to affect a separate program that allows policyholders to receive reimbursement for a certain number of rapid home tests each month.

Using an online portal launched in January, households were able to have up to three test shipments delivered to their home for free. Rapid antigen tests were self-administered and could provide results within minutes.

A first round of four tests began shipping in January, followed by a second installment of four tests in March and a third of eight tests in May.

Orders through the program will be suspended Friday, according to the federal website, but residents who have not met their household amount can order until then at or by calling (800) 232- 0233. The TTY number is (888) 720-7489.

On its website this week, the US Postal Service said households that had already placed two orders could submit a third, which would contain eight tests.

Households that have placed only one order in the past can submit two more that will contain a total of 16 additional tests. Those who have not yet used the program at all can place three separate orders for a total of 24 tests.

The Biden administration has previously warned that, in the absence of additional funding from Congress, some efforts to combat COVID-19 may have to be scaled back or halted.

“We went to Congress in the spring and said, ‘Look, we need resources to make sure we have plenty of vaccines and therapeutics for the fall and winter.’ Unfortunately, Congress did not receive funding,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, during a forum with the US Chamber of Commerce this month.

Tza said the government has prioritized available dollars to secure vaccine doses for the fall and winter, when some experts expect another wave of the coronavirus could hit.

“Late spring to summer, we saw Germany, we saw the UK, we saw all these countries buying vaccines for fall and winter, and we weren’t even in negotiations with these companies,” Jha said. “And we said, ‘Well, that’s unacceptable. We’ve got to act.’ was ending”.

The U.S. is also preparing for the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which could begin next month and include new booster vaccines designed specifically to combat the highly infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. Omicron family of coronaviruses.

Even with that particular federal program offline for now, there are still ways for Californians to check their coronavirus status. Home kits are widely available for purchase, and select drugstore chains — including CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens — continue to offer testing services.

Some communities and health centers still operate testing clinics. To find locations near you, visit

In addition, those with health insurance can purchase over-the-counter diagnostic tests at low or no cost — with the charge either covered directly at the point of sale or eligible for reimbursement later. For more information about this process, visit and contact your insurer.

Each person who has health insurance can be reimbursed by their insurer for up to eight tests per month. (Because some test kits have two tests per box, this equals four boxes per month per person covered by the insurance plan.)

This means that every month, a family of four can have 32 tests at no cost, with the cost reimbursed by their insurer. People may need to submit documents to claim compensation.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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