What Medicare's free COVID-19 test rule means for the at-home diagnostic market

The news: Global life sciences company Labcorp is launching a new on-demand digital health platform (Labcorp OnDemand) that lets consumers purchase at-home tests online, collect test samples in their homes, and easily schedule test appointments at one of Labcorp’s locations.

Labcorp’s platform could win new consumers for two key reasons: mindshare and low-cost home tests.

Labcorp has a huge global presence and has been around far longer than at-home testing startups, which means it already has a built-in consumer base to market its new platform.

  • Labcorp operates one of the largest clinical lab networks: It serves clients in nearly 100 countries, and has over 2,000 patient service locations in the US.

On top of its new digital health platform rollout, most of Labcorp’s at-home diagnostic tests are typically cheaper than entrants’.

  • For example, a typical HBA1C test (to assess diabetes risk) at Labcorp costs $39, whereas buzzy at-home testing startup Everly Health charges consumers a slightly higher price point (nearly $50) for a similar test.

Although that is a small difference in price, it’s still important to note—especially since data reveals out-of-pocket costs are rising.

  • Specifically, about 15% of consumers say they wouldn’t be able to pay out-of-pocket for an unexpected healthcare cost, according to Cedar’s 2021 Healthcare Consumer Experience Study.

What’s next? Medicare will soon pay eligible providers and organizations to offer free COVID-19 tests to Medicare patients, which could present a huge revenue opportunity for telehealth/at-home testing vendors.

For context, free over-the-counter rapid COVID-19 tests will be offered to the 60 million Medicare beneficiaries starting in the spring, per the CMS. It’s still unclear how many pharmacies and healthcare organizations will participate.

  • If entities like Labcorp and telehealth/testing vendors like Everly Health and LetsGetChecked are able to participate in the CMS’ new program, that means their providers could get reimbursed for Medicare patients’ COVID-19 tests.
  • The CMS’ new ruling could also help newer at-home testing entrants boost business as giants like Amazon encroach the at-home testing market and boast convenience to attract new customers.