By now everyone knows that they can get four free COVID-19 home tests from the federal government.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced a new measure to ensure that NC Medicaid beneficiaries have access to free at-home tests for the disease that’s dominated world news for the last two years. 

State Health Director and NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson signed an order several days ago that enables NC Medicaid beneficiaries to receive the free at-home COVID-19 tests. 

Unlike getting the tests from the federal government – which are ordered through a website at no cost and then sent through the mail, NC Medicaid beneficiaries can pick up the tests from their local pharmacies. 

Here’s how it works. Beneficiaries should choose an at-home test at the pharmacy of their choice and then present their NC Medicaid ID card to that pharmacy. That’s all there is to it.

According to state health officials, the pharmacist will be able to bill Medicaid on the patient’s behalf.  There should be no cost to the person picking up the test.

One potential snafu is that many local pharmacies have been unable to keep the tests on the shelves due to tremendous demand.

 Tilson stated that one obvious goal of the program is to prevent the spread of the disease.

“The ability to get at-home tests at local, nearby pharmacies will ensure NC Medicaid beneficiaries have access to at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests in the weeks ahead,” she stated in a Thursday press release announcing the program. “Along with getting vaccinated and boosted, and wearing a well-fitting mask, testing helps us prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people use at-home tests under any of the following conditions: “1) they begin to have symptoms, 2) at least five days after coming in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 or 3) are gathering indoors with a group of people who are not in their households.”