While you don’t need to present a negative COVID-19 test if you’re traveling within the U.S., you may need to if you’re planning to travel internationally, depending on the country you visit. You may also be required to get a COVID-19 test before returning to the U.S.
But does insurance cover COVID testing for travel? It depends. Here’s a closer look at the types of COVID-19 testing that may be required and how you can get insurance to cover the costs.
COVID-19 tests required for travel typically won’t be covered by your insurance company.
Requirements for COVID-19 testing when traveling internationally can vary from country to country.
Regulations can change rapidly, so it’s a good idea to read up on testing regulations if you’re planning a trip abroad.
Do you need a COVID-19 test for travel?
If you’re planning on traveling internationally, you may be required to take a COVID-19 test. Entry and exit requirements can vary by country — including the U.S. — and can change frequently and rapidly. It’s important to be aware of all country testing regulations before you go, plus those of any methods of transport you plan to take during your trip, such as airlines, buses, and cruise lines.
You can find country-specific COVID-19 information by visiting the U.S. Embassy’s COVID-19 Information page, foreign government websites, and online tourism boards. You can also check for updated travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The type of COVID tests usually required for travel, such as antigen and PCR tests, typically aren’t covered by insurance unless ordered by a healthcare provider. So if you do need to get tested, you’ll likely need to pay out of pocket.
Travel requirements are constantly changing, and some embassy pages may not be up to date. Make sure you check multiple sources to confirm your destination’s specific requirements.
What insurance companies cover COVID testing for travel?
As of Jan. 15, 2022, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCA), insurance companies are required to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests. Each plan member is eligible for eight at-home tests per month, up to four people per plan.
The FFCA also requires health insurance providers to cover all diagnostic PCR tests that are ordered or administered by a healthcare provider. If the test hasn’t been ordered, however, coverage will depend on your insurer, plan, and the state where you live. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer — contact your insurance company to find out if you’re covered.
See Also: How to Compare Medicare Advantage & Get the Best Plan
How do you get a COVID-19 test for travel?
If you need to get a COVID-19 test for travel, you’ll likely be required to take a viral test, rather than an at-home test or rapid test, also known as an antigen test. Viral tests, also known as PCR tests, are often more accurate than rapid tests.
In the U.S., you can get this type of test at many testing sites, including healthcare facilities, labs, and pharmacies. But testing site availability overseas can vary widely. They may include public and private healthcare facilities, labs, or your hotel.
Turnaround times for COVID-19 test results can vary depending on the type of test and testing location. For example, unvaccinated U.S. travelers visiting Colombia must have a negative antigen test 48 hours before entry or a negative PCR test 72 hours before entry. It’s important to make sure the test facility will have the results back in time when scheduling your test.
Tips for getting your COVID tests covered
Insurance companies don’t typically cover COVID tests for travel, so you’ll likely need to pay for any travel-related testing out of pocket. Keep in mind that tests can cost around $100, depending on where you get tested. Here are some ways to get your COVID test covered:
Use your health savings account or flexible spending account. If you have money in one of these accounts, you may be able to use it to pay for COVID testing that’s not covered by your health insurance.
Submit a claim to your insurance. Testing may be covered by your insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, with zero out-of-pocket costs if your provider considers it medically necessary.
Order self-testing kits. You may be eligible to receive free at-home COVID tests from the federal government. Federal law requires your insurance provider to cover the cost of up to eight at-home tests per person per month, with a limit of four people.
Inquire about government-funded testing. If you’re symptomatic and have no insurance, you may be eligible for free COVID testing at a community testing center.
Read More: What Is an FSA?
Insurance coverage for COVID test FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about insurance and COVID tests.
Can you still get free COVID tests from the government?
Yes. Every U.S. household is eligible to receive four free COVID tests from the government. You can place an order online or over the phone.
What countries require a negative COVID test for travel?
Many countries no longer require a COVID test for travel, but entry and exit COVID testing requirements can change often and rapidly. For the most up-to-date testing requirements, check the U.S. Department of State’s COVID-19 Country Information page or the local government of the country you plan to visit.
Does travel insurance cover COVID issues?
Travel insurance may cover COVID issues depending on the plan. While plan coverage and terms will vary, if you have a policy that offers COVID-related protection, you may be covered for benefits like trip cancellation, medical expenses, and evacuation.
Does health insurance reimburse COVID test costs?
Health insurance companies are required to cover the cost of up to eight at-home COVID tests per month per person, with a limit of four people. Lab tests ordered and performed by a healthcare professional are also generally covered by your insurance when medically necessary.
What’s the fastest COVID-19 test for travel?
If a rapid-result test is accepted where you’re traveling, you may be able to get your results in just a couple hours. If you need a viral test, such as a PCR test, this may take one to two days, depending on where you get tested.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "International Travel to and from the United States." Accessed January 20, 2023
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 for Air Passengers Traveling to the United States from China, Hong Kong, or Macau." Accessed January 20, 2023
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Biden-Harris Administration Requires Insurance Companies and Group Health Plans to Cover the Cost of At-Home COVID-19 Tests, Increasing Access to Free Tests." Accessed January 20, 2023
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know." Accessed January 20, 2023
- U.S. Embassy in Colombia. "COVID-19 Information ." Accessed January 20, 2023
- CVS. "COVID-19 testing." Accessed January 20, 2023
- Internal Revenue Service. "IRS: Cost of home testing for COVID-19 is eligible medical expense; reimbursable under FSAs, HSAs." Accessed January 20, 2023
- Covid.gov. "Get free at-home COVID-19 tests this winter." Accessed January 20, 2023
- Walgreens. "COVID-19 testing." Accessed January 20, 2023