Three takeaways from Biden’s winter Omicron plan


Aaron Kunkler


Today, the Biden administration announced a new plan to combat the Omicron variant after cases were detected in the U.S. 

The plan includes several pieces that will impact health care systems and delivery in Washington State. State of Reform dug through the statement to provide three key takeaways you should be aware of. 


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Insurance will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 testing 

For Americans with private insurance who can receive tests at offices, pharmacies and clinics without cost-sharing, the Biden administration is working to get at-home tests reimbursed by insurance companies. 

For people not covered by private insurance, at-home tests will be distributed to “key community sites” like health centers and rural clinics. The administration is pledging to distribute 50 million tests to these sites for free. 

By Jan. 15, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury will issue guidance allowing people to buy these over-the-counter tests and seek reimbursement from their group health plan or health insurance issuer. 

Insurance providers will be required to cover the cost of these tests as long as a public health emergency is in effect. Currently, there are eight at-home COVID-19 tests on the market. In Seattle, these tests currently cost about $25. 

There will be a focus on treatment pills in addition to vaccines 

While vaccines remain perhaps the most crucial piece of the nation’s COVID-19 strategy, emerging treatments offer promising results for reducing the severity of the disease. The FDA is currently reviewing antiviral treatments. The administration announced that it is “ensuring that if and when any new COVID-19 treatment pills have been found to meet FDA’s scientific standards, they are equitably accessible to all Americans.” 

The Biden administration is also working to secure 13 million doses of antiviral courses. That accounts for six times the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations reported throughout 2021. At the same time, the federal government is committing to using resources to update vaccines and boosters as needed in the face of the Omicron variant. 

Rapid response teams will be deployed this winter

Over the summer and fall, the federal government deployed 2,000 personnel, provided 3,200 ventilators, ambulances and other critical supplies, and shipped more than 2.3 million courses of monoclonal antibody treatments to fight the Delta variant surge. The administration announced today it is making more than 60 winter emergency response teams available to states. 

This includes more than 20 Department of Defense Medical Response Teams to support clinical staffing at strained hospitals; 10 National Disaster Medical System teams to provide clinical support at hospitals; more than 20 monoclonal antibody strike teams to support treatments; and more than 15 CDC expert deployments to conduct outbreak investigations and provide epidemiological or technical support as needed.