Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 home test kits have been difficult to find in the U.S. and can cost more than $20 per kit. With the emergence of the Omicron variant and the holiday season in full swing, the Biden administration recently announced measures to ramp up production and make home tests “free” to consumers via reimbursement from private health insurance companies. 

CivicScience looked at how likely people are to take advantage of the reimbursable tests. How it will work is still under negotiation, but most likely individuals will need to purchase the tests from a seller (a drug store, Walmart, etc.) and will subsequently be reimbursed by their health insurer. 

Asking specifically about the proposed policy, a total of 43% of U.S. adults surveyed (n=2,432) say they are likely to purchase a test if it is reimbursed by health insurance. Under half are not at all likely, while a few remain on the fence.

The results show significant improvement from data collected just prior to Biden’s announcement last Thursday, when less than 30% of respondents said they were at all likely to purchase an at-home test kit. Just 9% were very likely to buy a test, while 19% were somewhat likely. 

Overall likelihood to purchase home tests jumped more than 50% when introducing the option for reimbursement, underscoring that the cost of COVID-19 testing may be a significant prohibitive factor in curbing the pandemic in the U.S.

Home Tests by Income

In particular, reimbursable tests may boost usage among lower income households. Data prior to Biden’s announcement show that just 7% of those earning under $50K per year were “very likely” to purchase home test kits.

With the option for reimbursement, that number jumps to 19% and $50K and under earners become the most likely overall to purchase tests. Likelihood increases significantly across all income groups.

Home Tests by Age

Younger adults are the most likely to purchase reimbursable COVID-19 home tests. In fact, 50% of 18- to 24-year-olds are likely to buy a test, compared to 39% of adults aged 35 to 54. One one hand, this is promising data, given that younger adults are also the most likely to resume activities in public (dining out, shopping, traveling, etc.). On the other hand, increasing test adoption among older adults would undoubtedly broaden the potential to curb infection rates.

Trust In Home Tests

The lack of clear data on the efficacy and reliability of rapid home tests is likely another important factor stymying broader adoption. Currently, 56% of adults have some degree of trust in the tests, but only 11% trust them “a lot,” or presumably enough to comfortably rely on the results. 

Findings indicate that likelihood to purchase home tests correlates with trust in the accuracy of the tests’ results, as shown in a September study. That said, younger adults express stronger feelings of trust in the tests than older adults. 

Travel Insights

The Omicron variant may cut into holiday travel (see our latest travel insights for more info), but CivicScience tracking shows that among those who have decided on their upcoming plans, more than one-quarter (26%) will be traveling for the holidays. How many of those travelers will purchase a self-test kit? Analysis suggests that 40% of people planning to travel are open to buying home test kits. This number is likely to improve with the introduction of reimbursable home tests.

The White House’s initiative emphasizes the importance of testing in controlling the pandemic, especially given the possibility for breakthrough cases and with Omicron looming. Survey results suggest that prospects for wider adoption of home testing may improve with the new reimbursement measures, although much still remains to be determined, such as how many tests per month/year would be covered by insurers. Results also suggest that in addition to reducing cost, efforts to reach adults aged 35 and up and improve trust in test result accuracy would prove beneficial.