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State, local leaders respond to President Biden's push for free at-home COVID tests

On Thursday, as part of a new winter COVID-19 plan, President Biden announced at-home tests will now be more affordable and accessible for all Americans.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Under President Biden's new plan to tackle the increase in positive COVID cases health insurers must now cover the cost of at-home COVID testing.

That's not all. For those without private insurance, not to worry, the Biden Administration says free at-home tests will be available at thousands of community sites, that this is all part of the new plan.

In a tweet sent out on Thursday, President Biden said just that, "Today, I announced that health insurers must cover the cost of at-home COVID testing. For those not covered by private insurance, we will make available free tests at thousands of locations like rural clinics and community health centers for folks to pick up and test at home."

Gov. Kathy Hochul wasted no time complimenting and supporting the President's efforts. During a COVID update on Thursday, Hochul said, "Up until now we did not have the authority to have private insurance companies pay for people to get over the counter tests. We've been pushing and pushing, trying to allow this to happen."

So, how will this work? 

According to a release sent out by the President's office, "More than 150 million Americans with private insurance -- who now are able to get tests covered in physician offices, pharmacies, and clinics with no cost sharing -- will also be able to get home tests reimbursed by their insurance."

Congressman Brian Higgins call's this actions "a good incentive." 

"It's costly, prior to today's announcement," Higgins told 2 On Your Side. "But these are the kinds of things that we have to do, unfortunately, when we only have 57 percent of our population fully vaccinated and boostered."

University at Buffalo infectious disease expert Dr. Thomas Russo agrees. 

"Testing is a critically important tool for us to minimize the number of new infections," Dr. Russo says. 

So, what do you need to know when it comes to these at-home rapid tests? Let's start with accuracy.

"They're pretty good at identifying someone that's infectious," Dr. Russo says. "Particularly when it's done on a daily or every-other-day basis."

Dr. Russo says following along with an informational video is a sure way to execute the test correctly.

Who should consider picking up one of these at-home COVID tests?

"Anyone that has any respiratory tract symptoms, whether mild or severe," Dr. Russo says. "The other scenario that you might want to tests is if you're going to e having some sort of family gathering and everyone is not optimally protected."

And how about accessibility? How easy is it to find an at-home test?

"We have been suffering from some supply issues with these reliable rapid home tests. Hopefully with additional resources put into this particular area they'll become widely more available."

If you're curious whether or not your local drug store, supermarket and or community center carries at-home tests, be sure to call first.

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