Why do I Have to Pay for a COVID-19 Test to Travel?

Most COVID-19 tests are covered by insurance in some capacity. Some tests, however, are not covered by insurance. This includes certain COVID-19 tests for travel, limited numbers of at-home tests, and tests covered under different private insurance plans. This article focuses on why many COVID-19 tests for travel are not covered by insurance.

The Medical Necessity of COVID-19 Tests

Most private pay insurance plans only cover medically necessary COVID-19 tests. Many instances of traveling are not deemed a medically necessary reason for an insurance provider to cover a COVID-19 test.

Medically necessary COVID-19 tests, specifically at-home tests, are only covered in a limited quantity by most insurance providers. Every plan is different, so if you are looking for coverage on at-home COVID-19 tests, talk to your insurance provider. Insurance providers are required by law to cover no less than 8 at-home tests.

At-home tests are not accepted for travel use. To fulfill airline and travel requirements for COVID-19 testing results from a certified lab are needed. These tests are typically not deemed medically necessary, which means most of them are not covered by insurance.

COVID-19 Tests Covered by Insurance

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act (CARES) outlines tests that are required to be covered by insurance. One of the requirements for a COVID-19 test to be covered by insurance is that the test has been emergency use authorized (EUA) by the FDA. A list of the EUA-approved tests can be found here.

Insurance providers are only obligated to cover at-home COVID-19 tests, as these tests have been deemed medically necessary. The vast majority of travel is not a medical necessity, so insurance coverage does not apply.

If you have an outstanding reason for a medically necessary COVID-19 test for travel and need coverage, speak to your insurance provider for details. A specific testing lab may be required. Be sure to ask any testing lab you visit about insurance coverage before scheduling an appointment, as most locations do not accept insurance for COVID-19 tests for travel.

At-Home VS. In-Person COVID-19 Testing

The CARES Act requires insurance providers to cover at-home COVID-19 tests. Many at-home PCR/molecular COVID-19 tests require samples to be sent to a lab for analysis and test results–these are different from in-person tests conducted by a certified laboratory.

In-person COVID-19 tests, specifically for travel, are not covered by insurance, as they are not deemed medically necessary and not classified as in-home tests.

Types of COVID-19 Tests

There are a few different types of COVID-19 tests–antibody, antigen, and PCR/molecular. COVID-19 antibody tests, which show if a person has been exposed to COVID-19 in the past, are generally not accepted for travel. 

Most international travel destinations require lab-certified PCR/molecular results. These tests need to be scheduled by a certified provider and are usually not covered by insurance. These tests can be expensive, especially if done at a last-minute airport testing location. 

Make sure to check testing prices before scheduling or attending any test in a lab setting. The CARES act established penalties for providers that fail to provide prices. If you can’t find a price on a lab’s website, you may want to look for a different test provider.

Steps to Get a COVID-19 Test to Travel

  1. Find a testing provider that provides results that are accepted by the airports, airlines, and destinations you are traveling to.
  2. Make sure the testing provider will get results for you before your travel date. Some labs can take 72+ hours to provide results.
  3. Schedule an appointment that allows you to get results before the date of your trip. Be sure not to get test results too early (if your trip is a few months away, you may want to wait to test).
  4. After your test, be sure to ask any questions you may have and any documentation you want to look over regarding the lab and/or testing process.
  5. After getting your test results, be sure to double-check all your travel requirements and bring the necessary documentation.

Why Should I Consider an In-Person COVID-19 Test for Travel?

In-person COVID-19 testing conducted by certified labs is usually the best way to get quick results that are accepted by airports, airlines, and travel destinations. While these tests are not covered by insurance, the wait time for test results is shorter and you can ask questions to your lab technician during the process.

The pricing for in-person COVID-19 travel tests can vary from test to test, but anything over $250 should be looked at with extreme caution. Pricing typically hovers around the $150 range.

COVID-19 Tests Available at Oswald’s

Oswald’s Pharmacy hosts a CLIA-certified lab featuring tests conducted by experienced certified lab technicians.

2-Hour Drive-Up PCR/Molecular COVID-19 Test. Click here for more information and scheduling options.

Drive-Up Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test. Click here for more information and scheduling options.

Oswald’s Pharmacy also offers COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. Doses and boosters are available for all ages. Click here for more information and scheduling options.