You can now get free tests and treatments for COVID-19 and flu at home

Key findings

  • Adults in the US now have access to free one-sample flu and COVID-19 tests.
  • If you test positive for any disease, regardless of where you’re tested, you can get a free prescription drug mailed to you or delivered to a nearby pharmacy.
  • The program aims to ensure that people with respiratory infections can take antiviral treatments at the right time to speed up their recovery.

You now have access to free at-home testing and treatment for COVID-19 and the flu through a government program that this week expanded nationwide.

The National Institutes of Health has teamed up with digital health company eMed and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) to improve testing and treatment for COVID-19.

The program launched as a pilot in select areas of the United States in January. It will now include flu testing and treatment and will be available in all parts of the U.S., according to a statement from the National Institutes of Health on Wednesday.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or the flu, regardless of whether they were tested under the program, can request a free telehealth consultation. Your provider may then prescribe antiviral treatment. You can request that we mail it to you overnight or deliver it to a nearby pharmacy for you to pick up.

“With the Home Test to Treat program, even patients in very rural areas or without access to a primary care physician can enroll in the program and, if medically indicated, have an antiviral drug prescription waiting for them at the nearest pharmacy in within the hour or a prescription waiting on their doorstep within a day,” said Michael Mina, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer at digital health company eMed, in an email.

While any adult can request telehealth services, only people who are uninsured or on a government health plan such as Medicare or Medicaid can request a free test mailed to their home. These people do not need to be experiencing symptoms to request a test.

The program uses Pfizer’s Lucira home test, which can detect three viruses simultaneously – COVID-19, Influenza A and Influenza B. Lucira is a molecular test, meaning it works like a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, not antigen tests , which are the most common to test at home.

“During respiratory virus season, the symptoms of COVID, flu and other viruses are very similar,” Mina said. “This is because the symptoms are largely a reflection of our body’s attempts to fight off the virus. This means that symptoms alone are not enough to know what someone is infected with. Knowing what it is is essential to making the right treatment decisions.

Antiviral drugs for flu and COVID-19 often need to be taken early in the course of the illness to be effective. The goal of the program, Mina said, is to help people get a diagnosis and treatment in a matter of hours, not days.

Paxlovid, the most common antiviral treatment for COVID-19, must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms. Antivirals for flu, including Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) and Relenza (zanamivir), work when taken within two days of the onset of symptoms.

Test results for COVID-19 are now being monitored less than earlier in the pandemic, leaving public health experts with less data to understand how the virus is spreading. However, CDC data shows a 17% increase in hospital admissions and a 25% increase in deaths from COVID-19 in the past week.

What does this mean for you?

You can register for the free treatment program test online at

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tracking data for COVID.

By Claire Bugos

Claire Bugos is a writer at Verywell Health.

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