Biden administration to suspend program to send Americans home for freetests this week, accusing Congress of failing to fund new rounds of shipments.
Americans who have not yet applied for their 16 free tests through the federal government gate have until Friday to place their orders.
“Ordering through this program will be paused on Friday, September 2 because Congress has not provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s testing stockpile,” the Department of Health and Human Services says on the page.
Since opening orders in May for a third round of free COVID-19 tests, the U.S. Postal Service has allowed households across the country to request up to three free test orders, for a total of 16 tests.
Via the website, a senior administration official says the federal government has distributed more than 600 million free tests to date. The remaining stock of tests is being held back until the end of this year, in view of a “further rise in infections and more acute need”.
The official said federal health officials will “quickly resume distributing free tests,” if Congress secures more funding.
The Biden administration also opened orders in June for at-home testing specifically designed to work with a smartphone app accessible to Americans who are blind or have limited vision.
However, citing “a significant increase in demand” for the tests, the department says these accessible tests are also “temporarily out of stock.”
In January, the Biden administration contracted for up to 500 million free home tests to be shipped nationwide from multiple manufacturers.
A White House request to fund this and other ongoing COVID-19 response efforts has been stalled for months in Congress, prompting warnings federal health officials of “significantly reduced national testing capacity” as manufacturers close supply lines.
Other federal efforts to cover free COVID-19 testing are also winding down.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s expanded testing operation, which provided free lab tests to places like schools and shelters, will stop offering the service at the end of the year. A Health Resources and Services Administration program to reimburse providers for testing uninsured Americans expired in march“due to a lack of sufficient funds.”
For people with private insurance or Health Insurance Coverage of Part B, plans are still needed to cover up to eight tests per month until the public health emergency ends. The current declaration is set to expire in October, though the Biden administration is expected to renew the emergency for at least a few more months beyond that date.
A growing share of Americans have turned to rapid home tests, which the Food and Drug Administration says now require up to three separate tests to rule out some SARS-CoV-2 infections. A dreaded winter wave of the virus could result in more than a million hospitalizations and 181,000 deaths in a worst-case scenario, modelers say.
But in the wake of little movement on Capitol Hill toward funding the Biden administration’s COVID-19 efforts, White House officials say they have begun working to move parts of the response to the private market. .
Government distribution of a COVID-19 antibody drug – Eli Lilly’s bebtelovimab – is already ending this month, after the FDA recently amended its emergency use authorization to allow commercial sale of the treatment.
“One of the things that we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about over the past few months, and we’re going to continue that work, and you’ll hear more from the administration about that, is getting us out of this acute crisis phase. emergency where the U.S. government buys the vaccines, buys the treatments, buys the diagnostic tests,” said senior White House COVID-19 official Dr. Ashish Jha. an event organized by the Chamber of Commerce Foundation earlier this month.
Health industry officials say the first formal talks are expected to begin this week with the Biden administration on the matter.
“We have to get out of this business for the long haul,” Jha said.