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Private insurers will soon be required to reimburse people enrolled in their plans for the cost of at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests, and mask mandates will be extended for air, rail and bus travelers through at least mid-March.
The measures are part of a suite of new actions President Joe Biden is expected to announce later today in the wake of the arrival of the Omicron variant in the U.S. The White House’s initiatives are designed to fight an expected winter surge of COVID-19 infections, according to sources familiar with the president’s plans.
At about $24 per package, rapid COVID-19 testing remains prohibitively expensive for many, even after a promise to bring the tests to Americans at a wholesale cost.
Other countries have rapid tests available for free or about $1 per test, and many experts say more frequent use of rapid tests could help stop transmission of COVID-19 virus.
About 150 million Americans would be eligible for reimbursement for rapid tests through their insurance plans.
In addition to those steps, international travelers flying into the U.S. will soon be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of their departure, whether they are vaccinated or not.
In keeping with the six-part plan to fight COVID-19 the administration outlined in August, the president’s new plan is centered around vaccinations for all eligible Americans, including booster doses for the estimated 100 million adults who are now at least 6 months past their second doses of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 2 months past a Johnson & Johnson shot.
Those plans, which relied on vaccine mandates for most workers, have been stymied by recent court rulings blocking implementation of those requirements.
As issue makes its way through the courts, Biden is expected to call on companies to voluntarily implement vaccination requirements for their workers, which he says are helping to close vaccination gaps.
On Thursday, Biden is also expected to outline a new push to get booster shots to all adults, with an emphasis on reaching seniors, who are at greatest risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
The president is scheduled to speak at 1:40 PM at the National Institutes of Health.
Background briefing, the White House, Dec. 1, 2021
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